It is an ongoing test of a writer’s ability, our facility with showing, not telling. Readers don’t want a narrative of how a character feels. And if that emotional character isn’t your Point of View character, you can’t say things like, I felt diminished. I was afraid. If you’re not in that character’s head as the POV, you have to relay their emotions by showing what they look like to an outsider.
Not as hard as it sounds. It’s more of a habit. Start by watching people around you. See what you can tell about what’s going through their minds while they’re not talking. Notice which body parts give them away. It really doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong; what matters is that you notice the changes in their body as their emotions leak out.
Here’s a partial list I use to inspire my creativity when I get stuck. As with all of these lists, don’t use them verbatim; adjust them with your author’s voice, to suit your situations.
And, add your own in the comment section. Share with the rest of the community:
- Her wounds were superficial, but her anxiety went bone-deep
- Flimsy feelings
- Unorthodox personal charm
- Power player
- Quiet authority
- Faceful of bad attitude
- intellectual myopia
- looked at me with all the expression of a dinner plate
- Thoughts were like birds rattling around in a cage
- Like an emotional sticky tray
- Like an emotional Venus fly trap
- I felt weightless and anonymous
- Youth left waiving from the platform as the rain pulled out
- Workout clothes, thigh pants, headband, busy look, 2 Starbucks coffees
- Her face had gone pale, her eyes glassy with fear. Her arms trembled
- Staring in doe-eyed disbelief
- anger steaming behind him like coal smoke from a power plant
- the oppressive reek of excess testosterone that oozes like rank body odor from the kind of man who likes to throw his weight around
For more descriptors for characters and settings, click here.