How to Show Character Emotions

How your characters feel about what happens in scenes is crucial to the reader’s perception of the story as a whole. Beginners often convey feelings with “telling” words (EX: She said angrily.) instead of showing. Or they show feelings (EX: She thrust out her chin.), add dialogue (EX: “You can’t make me.) but then don’t show us how the character’s feelings and attitudes change and grow over the course of the story. Or they do all these things without considering the pace of the scene. How can a writer show character emotions that keep readers begging for more?
Writing Tip for Today: Try these remedies for conveying your characters’ emotions:

  • Use yesterday’s suggestion about “weaving beats” of emotion around and through the dialogue.
  • Use dialogue to illustrate your character’s emotions, along with expressions and body language.
  • Remember to think of your character as being on stage, where that character wouldn’t face the audience and proclaim, “I’m angry!” Telling emotions are often identified by the “ly.”
  • Be aware of pacing. If your scene contains rising action or building tension, keep any interior thoughts in the beginning or keep them extremely brief. A detour to “back story” almost always deflates tension.
  • As the character changes and grows over the course of the story, make those “aha!” moments clear but don’t hit the reader over the head.

Happy Scene writing!

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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