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Masterfully Showing Emotion in Your Characters

Masterfully Showing Emotion in Your Characters

The emotional depiction is difficult, yet it is a crucial ability for fiction writers.

Readers want to be moved, and they want to remember what touches their hearts. We fail as storytellers if we do not care and masterfully elicit emotion. You can hire ghostwriting services from phantom writing company.

You can express feelings in your character in three ways:

  • Using body language (to reveal internal sensations)
  • Naming the emotion
  • Via the character’s thoughts

Writers frequently employ a combination of these, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s examine the issue of “expressing” emotion, which is more than just throwing a clenched fist or a thumping heart into a scenario.

Emotions are often hard to detect.

The body simultaneously feels and expresses emotion. It might be sensed inwardly without any external indication. Emotions, on the other hand, may be expressed through body language without the individual being aware of it.

Physical cues can be extremely effective. Humans are extremely sensitive to small gestures—a slight movement, even a flicker of the eyes, can convey a great deal. Grief and rage, for example, can be expressed in barely visible expressions. We authors should pay attention.

What makes it difficult is that your POV character may speak and think in ways that indicate she is unaware of how she is feeling or what her body language is communicating.

Just because I’ve seen you groan or weep doesn’t mean I understand how you feel. Body language can only go so far in conveying a character’s emotions.

It’s All about Your character.

Don’t feel obligated to tell the reader about everyone’s emotional state in every scene.

Everything in a scenario is seen through the eyes of your POV character—what she notices at the time by paying attention.She might not notice the body language of others or be conscious of her own feelings.

Have you ever noticed yourself grinding your teeth, white-knuckling your steering wheel, or breathing quickly? Someone else frequently notices that we are showing emotion. We typically pick up on body sensations rather than visuals.

Let’s have a look at a scene from my play Intended for Harm. Take note of the motions and minor movements that convey emotion—both in the POV character and in you, the reader:

Jake grasped the neckline of Simon’s T-shirt. “What did you mean?” “Where has Shane gone?”

He didn’t need to hear their response; the guilt was obvious on their faces.


Levi’s eyes welled up with tears. “A week later, when Shayne returned to town, we planned to meet him… up where he’d taken Dinah…

Levi swallowed and shut his mouth. Jake saw him fight back the tears, and he knew he did so not out of humiliation but to affirm, not condemn, his actions.

Simon stamped his foot, evidently not wanting Levi to find out, but Jake would.

Levi took a deep, quavering breath. He went on. “We beat up on him.” But I guess we got carried away.”

Jake opened his mouth but said nothing. His energy was depleted, and he wobbled on his feet. The words flew out of his throat like moths to a flame, to their deaths. “You murdered him.”

Levi looked down at the ground, but Simon returned his gaze. “We brought his body to his car and pushed it off the cliff.” Nobody will ever locate it.

Jake’s knees buckled, and he fell to the concrete garage floor. He hid his face in his palms, speechless. “Oh, God… oh, God…

Jake moaned, oblivious to whether or not his boys were still present. The moment became hazy, engulfing him like quicksand and pulling him down.

Levi’s voice was floating around. “Dad. It’ll be OK. There is no way anyone could point to us. We were wearing goggles. No one knew Shane raped Dinah but us. Even if they found the car, there’d be no reason for anyone to believe we had anything to do with it. They’ll believe he drove off the cliff. He had drugs in his system. “Dad, they’d blame it on the drugs.”


The entire room fell silent. “Just leave,” Jake advised. He listened but didn’t hear any footsteps. He raised his head from his curled-up position on the ground and looked at Simon, who stood there thinking.

“And how about Joey?” Simon inquired, his voice husky with disdain.

“And how about him?” Jake inquired.

“How are we going to get him to keep his trap closed?” “He blabs about anything and will tell someone about it.”

“I’ll speak with him,” Jake said.

Simon laughed. “Like that’ll stop him?” You are aware of his holiness and righteousness. He believes it is his God-given responsibility to report all sin. To ensure that evildoers are held accountable for their actions—

“I said I’d speak with him!” Jake yelled through his parched throat, thirsting for relief but knowing that not a single drop would be discovered.

“Levi, let’s go,” Simon remarked as he pushed open the garage door.

Jake notices emotional cues in his boys. Other than the apparent shame on his sons’ faces, he doesn’t try to define the feelings they’re feeling, but these telltale signs suggest they’re upset—tears, gulping, stomping, and snorting.

Jake begins to notice some of his own physiological experiences and visceral reactions to what he sees. He feels his energy drain from his body. He wobbles and collapses, his knees giving way.

Then there are the words and phrases that reveal Jake’s emotional body language: burying his face in his hands, sighing, yelling.

3 Ways to Show Emotion

Here are three examples of how to feel empathy through body language or your senses.

  • What the character observes in others
  • What the character senses in his own body
  • What the author shows in the character, from outside the character’s direct perspective

This final component requires your POV character to be aware that he is displaying these physical cues. Jake is aware that he is yelling. But I’ve told my husband that he’s yelling and isn’t aware of it. Some people don’t realize they’re crying until their face gets wet. We don’t always realize we’re groaning, sobbing, moaning, sighing, gasping, or clenching our hands or jaw.

Is it important whether your POV character is aware that he is emoting? That depends on why you’re showing it. Is it the reader’s responsibility to detect emotion in the character? If your character is clutching his child’s shirt collar so tightly that he’s nearly strangling him, it may benefit your situation to have him not know it until someone pulls him away.

Hands Clenching

When you’re in a deep POV, everything in a scene is coming through your character’s senses, so you have to be careful. You can’t fully be in his head if you show him something he doesn’t know about. So, while a character may not be conscious of his hands clenching, he must be aware of it on some level.

Consider ways to express emotions that your character may not want observed. Consider what might elicit emotion in your POV character. When Jake sees Simon stomp, he understands he’s telling his younger brother to stop talking. Simon does not want him to notice.

POV characters must pay attention to the tones, attitudes, and gestures of others. Another reason to utilize them is that readers cannot read your thoughts.

Remember these suggestions, and you’ll be well on your way to emotional mastery.

  1. S. Lakin is an editor, an award-winning blogger, and the author of twenty novels as well as the Writer’s Toolbox series of novelist instructional books. She edits and evaluates over 200 manuscripts per year and leads seminars and boot camps to help writers create outstanding novels. For further details click here “Book publishing Agent“.

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