Monday, June 10, 2013



Characters feel things. That's why the reader identifies with a character. But the story will fall flat if you write "John was afraid" or "Sally was embarrassed."

When I taught a class for the Summer School of Arts in Wells, B.C., we made a big chart with the headings:

                   EMOTION                               ACTION

Then we brainstormed.

Some of our ideas:

Anxiety    jittery, stomach ache, unable to focus, blinking, stammering,                   wringing hands, playing with hair, sucking thumb, difficulty

                 breathing, biting nails, picking at cuticles, looking away, jiggling                     knee, rattling keys or change in pocket, wants to throw up,

                pacing, tossing and turning in bed, shredding a styrofoam cup

Anger       flailing arms, red face, cold eyes, pursed lips, narrowed eyes,

                 scowling, shouting, glaring, spitting, slamming things, stomping,                          pulsing vein,  muscles tightening, roaring in head, throwing

                 something, breaking something, clenched fists                         

Fear         wide eyes, pounding heart, racing heart, butterflies, falling

                stomach, goosebumps, cold sweat, prickles up spine, weak knees,

                trembling, shaking, shivering, curling into ball, backing away, hard

                to breathe, dry mouth, frozen

Other emotions to try: embarrassment, loneliness, guilt, grief, confusion, shame, envy, worry, pain, sadness.


Keep your word lists handy and reach for them when your character feels something.

Do a word check of your manuscript to make sure you're not using the same action too many times eg. Does your heroine's heart pound on  every page?

And don't overdo it! You're writing a novel, not anatomy text book!

Some advice from Nancy Lamb in The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children .

Whether it's joy, anxiety or sadness, find interesting ways to show the reader what the hero feels. You'll be rewarded with a more intriguing portrait for your efforts and a more enthusiastic audience for your book.


Jane of Lantern Hill by Elizabeth Montgomery

I read this book at least 10 times when I was a kid! It's sentimental but I guarantee you'll fall in love with Jane. The setting of Prince Edward Island is enchanting and Jane's grandmother is a satisfying villain.


What if . . . you found a diary hidden in your attic with a secret in it that could change your life? What could that secret be? What would you do?


 Next week:

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