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.
- A mirthless smile
- Giving comfort to another without much energy (rubbing their back, patting their shoulder)
- Limp hands and arms
- Staring off at nothing
- A hanging head
- A loose jaw
- Feeling directionless
- Becoming less verbal
- Propping the cheek up with a fist
- A dull or bleak look
- Slowed responses to stimuli (loud noises, activity, a person speaking)
- A desire to sleep or tune out
- Depressed hunger and thirst
- The head dipping to the chest
- Silent tears…
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.
Thea Rauth says
As a writer, this list is really helpful! I joined this blog and you are now in my quick access toolbar. Thank you.
Do you post ideas on Twitter? If so, please add me by my name (no spaces)and I will add you back! Thanks again! 😉
Actually, Marty…Becca and I are leaning in this direction, but will make a formal announcement next week…*wink, wink, nudge, nudge*
Just a comment that you need not post.
I love this “Emotion Thesaurus” – you could expand this concept into a full size book.
Good one, Bish!
You’re welcome, PJ!
PJ Hoover says
Thank you so much for doing these!
Bish Denham says
I think using sarcasm might also be used when one is resigned.
“Well, I may as well kill myself now and get it over with, because I’m dead meat when I get home as it is.”