Fiction Writing Tips: Writing Character Emotions

(I’m terribly sorry but this morning’s post was delayed due to numerous weather difficulties. Thank you all for grace!  NCWA blogservant)

NCWA welcomes Jeanne Marie Leach in the first of three Thursday posts on Fiction Writing Tips.



Characters always act, think, feel and talk, so be sure to use a balance of these things. SHOW the reader how the characters feel, don’t TELL. Words that end in ‘ly’ tell. For example let’s use the following sentence.

“Wow,” she said excitedly.

What does this tell you? She is excited. How excited is she? We don’t really know. This is basically TELLING and doesn’t give your writing much zing.

Try rewriting this same sentence using her body language to SHOW us how she is feeling. How about something like the following:

“Wow,” she said. Her eyes grew as wide as the pocket watch itself, and her mouth dropped open.

Can you see her in your mind as she responds to what is happening? This gives you more of an idea of how excited she really is.

Also, give your characters habits like running their hands through their hair or tapping their pen on the table when nervous, or clenching their teen then angry. Let the reader see the character’s emotions through physiological aspects such as facial expressions, how they walk.

Below are some common responses your characters will experience. After the emotion are some physiological reactions to that experience.

  1. Anger – breathing speeds up, heart pounds, jaws tighten, the body prepares to fight or flee
  2. Sorrow – tears, stooped shoulders, eyes half closed, shaky voice, head down
  3. Embarrassment – flushed cheeks, looking down at the ground, avoiding eye contact, wanting to hide
  4. Happiness – big smile, eyes wide and bright, hands clasped, unstoppable tears, eager to hug and does so enthusiastically


** All these are taken from Jeanne’s book, WRITING BASICS FOR BEGINNERS and are copyrighted. **

Jeanne Marie Leach is a multi-published fiction author, freelance editor, speaker, writing coach, and teaches fiction editing. She judges the Genesis Contest and the Carol Awards and has mentored beginning writers, many of whom have gone on to win or final in writing contests and  are now published.

 Jeanne Marie Leach

Author * Speaker * Freelance Fiction Editor * Writing Coach


3 thoughts on “Fiction Writing Tips: Writing Character Emotions

  1. I noticed that Jean Marie is a judge for the American Christian Fiction Writers Association Genesis Contest. It’s one of the better contests for Christian Novelists and is open for entries right now. Go to and look at the tab for the Genesis contest which is for unpublished authors. There is a fee and membership dues for contest entry.
    Many members of NCWA are also ACFW members. We have some talented writers in our group. Would be nice to see some finalists in the contest this year.


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