Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Defensive

When it comes to emotion, sometimes we need a brainstorming nudge. After all, each character will express their feelings differently depending on their personality, emotional range, and comfort zone. We hope this short, sample list of expressions will help you better imagine how your character might show this emotion!

If you need to go deeper, we have detailed lists of body language, visceral sensations, dialogue cues, and mental responses for 130 emotions in the 2019 expanded second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.


  • Arms crossed
  • Squinting eyes
  • Lowered, angry brows
  • Cheeks sucked in
  • Shaking the head
  • Raised voice
  • Blowing out a noisy breath
  • Going on the offensive and verbally attacking the accuser
  • Deflecting blame
  • Flinching, jerking back
  • Difficulty being articulate, stuttering
  • Splaying a hand across the chest, mouth gaping
  • Spots of color in the cheeks…

Win your readers’ hearts by tailoring your character’s emotional responses so they’re compelling, credible, and realistic.

If you struggle with writing emotions, you aren’t alone. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression has helped writers all over the globe, and it can help you. To find out more about this bestselling book, please visit our bookstore.

Prefer the flexibility of instant online access and greater searchability?

The Emotion Thesaurus is also at our sister site, One Stop for Writers. Visit the Emotion Thesaurus Page to view our complete list of entries.

TIP: While you’re there, check out our hyper-intelligent Character Builder that helps you create deep, memorable characters in half the time!





Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Defensive

  1. Mary Witzl says:

    I like this. I’m just doing ‘defensive’ in an extensive rewrite and once again, your site comes in handy. Looking around at others to garner their approval and support is a good one — I hadn’t thought of that!

  2. Lady Glamis says:

    Can I just tell you that your thesaurus is PERFECT for editing? It really is. I love to go back and add details for emotions of my characters, and your thesaurus is a great help!

    Thank you!

  3. NancyE says:

    I’ve been reading and learning for a while. Thanks for being such a wonderful resource.

  4. auria cortes says:

    Oh! Oh! you take requests. How about resigned?

    Btw, if you ever self-publish this blog through Lulu or whatever, I’d definitely buy the book.

  5. Angela says:

    I’m glad you found us, Parakeva! Adrenalin sounds good to me. 🙂

    Thanks PJ!

  6. PJ Hoover says:

    Thursday again!!!!! I love defensive. It’s a great emotion!

  7. parakeva says:

    It’s just excellent. I only found your site yesterday, but I’ve read so much of it already, and I didn’t realise you were still updating! This post has just made me pretty happy for that reason. 🙂

    How about someone experiencing an adrenalin rush for a future post? Because excitement can be felt negatively too, and it seemes like most of the entries under ‘excitement’ are positive – adrenalin is either, it seems…

    Thank you again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.