Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Emotion

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we’ll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!



Today’s Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad EMOTION skillz:

1–Know what you want the reader to feel. Everything you put your character through–good, bad, ugly…it’s all to evoke a reaction from the reader. Be mindful of exactly what you want your audience to experience as you write. In order for the book to succeed, the reader must invest in the character’s plight and root for them as they struggle.

2–Use everything in your writing arsenal.
Emotions are best shown through physical action, but the choices you make with story elements and structure can also enhance the experience for the reader. Setting choices (day, night, the weather, a setting with emotional tie to a character) can affect mood. Challenging a character’s strengths or revealing a weaknesses can bring out raw feeling. Description, wording, pacing, conflict, sentence structure…all of these can and should be used with intent to help bring about a specific reaction/feeling.

3–Be genuine, not melodramatic.
With emotion more so than anything else, it’s easy to go a touch too far. Always keep an eye out for proportion when displaying emotion, making sure the reaction is relevant to the situation, within the character’s response range and most importantly, cliche-free.

4–Minimize thoughts, maximize action. Showing emotion through thoughts can be a slippery slope and can lead to telling/explaining. Showing emotion physically is difficult for a reason–it means having an intimate knowledge of the way your character expresses themselves. Strive for a balance of showing that leans more on action, with emotional thoughts acting as an enhancement. What your character does to express themselves will have more of an impact than what they think about the situation.

5–Emotions should lead to decisions.
Always keep the story moving forward. A character agonizing over a choice will crank up the tension & heighten stakes, but too much will slow the pace. Remember too, often when emotion is involved, we make mistakes. Mistakes = great conflict!

Image: PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay


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.
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13 Responses to Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Emotion

  1. Beth says:

    I thought point #2 was really interesting. Once again you’ve helped me think about a different way to accomplish something in my writing. It’s so easy to choose a bland setting. I love the idea of using a setting that actually changes or reveals the character’s mood. Thanks!

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    These are great tips! Thank you so much 🙂

  3. This is the best stocking stuffer yet. 😀

    Thanks, Angela!

  4. Wow, this series is chock full of great tips! I have to work the hardest on #4

  5. Ahhhh, #5. My poor Nerien. Why are you content to wallow and not DO anything? *trudges back to WIP*

  6. These are all so useful. I need to remember #4! 🙂

  7. Heather says:

    Thank you so much! I especially needed #1 and #4. I’ll be putting them to good use!

  8. AubrieAnne says:

    I love 3 and 5. They will be really helpful when i get back into my novels!

    AubrieAnne @

  9. Jenn says:

    Thanks for the excellent points. I’m enjoying these stocking stuffers–they last longer than the chocolate I usually get in my stocking. 🙂

  10. Some good points. Thanks for the reminders. Yes I was dwelling on number 4. Maybe its a writers loner thing. For instance as I dwell on it, I never really know what my BF is thinking. Sometimes his actions befuddle me too. It depends on what the action is.

    Jacqueline Howett Author of The Greek Seaman

  11. I love #4 and need to remember it! Thanks for posting these!

  12. Great tips. I especially like the one about proportion, because it is easy to go too extreme in character’s reactions.

    I’ve sometimes erred in the other extreme, though–underplaying emotion to a degree my readers felt the character was too analytical and not having an honest reaction. Getting emotions right can be a tough balancing act.

  13. Deb says:

    I have decided I am printing these off–thanks again, Angela!

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