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But showing emotion is sometimes a little easier said than done. Where do you even begin? If you’re having trouble, it may help to use these four steps:
- Identify the emotion you’re trying to show. For the purpose of the example, let’s go with fear. But of course this could be anything.
- Write down some associated words/common traits of that emotion. There are two sources you can use to try to figure these out—your experience, and The Emotion Thesaurus (or, ideally, both). The idea is to develop a list of related words or descriptors of an emotion. You'll want to draw on your experience to determine how exactly that emotion will affect your character. For fear, that might mean feeling cold, increased heart rate, clammy palms, prickling, jumpiness, hyperventilating, etc. The nice thing about The Emotion Thesaurus is that the list is developed for you, so you can skip right on over to the next step...
- Choose a couple best suited for the situation and your character. Emotions affect everyone differently, and different levels of emotion (nervousness versus outright terror, for example) may affect the same person in different ways. Once you have your list prepared, you want to take a couple traits or reactions that you think best fit the scenario and your character, and use them together. For the sake of the example, I’m going to use feeling cold, an increased heart rate and shaking.
- Rewrite using your new words. Taking the words you've chosen from step three, rewrite the emotion with more impact.
I was terrified as I grabbed my phone.Using the steps above, you could end up with something like...
My heart rammed against my ribcage. Ice breathed down the back of my neck as I snatched my phone. My fingers were shaking so badly that I hit the wrong number and had to start over...You get the idea. The goal, in the end, is to write emotion without explicitly stating it. With the right combination of characteristics, imagery, thoughts and actions, your readers should be able to infer the emotion through context.
What other tips do you have for showing emotion effectively?
Having trouble showing emotion in your writing? Here are four easy steps to get you on the right track. (Click to tweet)
Do you have trouble writing emotion? Writer @Ava_Jae shares four easy steps to showing emotion effectively. (Click to tweet)