#5-Characters’ Feelings

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What makes a character (or a person, for that matter) seem real? It’s when he or she acts like a real person, showing real feelings, likes, and dislikes. You read in writing tip #4 how to create believable characters you can use to write stories. Once you have given your characters personalities, how do you show the reader your character’s personality? That is the $1,000 question!

Happy Sad Angry Pain Shocked Embarrassed

Do you ever experience any of the feelings above? Of course you do. Everybody has feelings, and your characters must have them as well. If you were creating a video for YouTube, it would be easy for viewers to see what your characters are feeling. They can see and hear everything. However, authors are a bit limited. Authors have to show everything with words alone. Most books don’t even have pictures

Show . . . Don’t Tell

This is a writer’s favorite phrase. Memorize it. One way to give your readers a great experience is by making sure you always SHOW what your characters are feeling rather than simply TELLING your readers what the characters are feeling. Here is an example of a paragraph that only tells. It is boring.

Sally was tired. She went to her room to get ready for bed. The room was dark, so she wasn’t prepared when a shadow jumped out at her. She was scared, so she cried. Her brother said, “Aw, Sally. It’s just me.”

Hint: notice the passive “was” words. That is a hint you might be “telling” the reader something. Here is an example of the author showing the reader how Sally feels:

Sally rubbed her eyes and yawned. She shuffled up the stairs to her room, dragging one foot after the other. When she opened the door, a dark shadow leaped out at her. Sally shrieked and jumped back. Her eyes grew wide, and her hands shook. Then she burst into tears. “Aw, Sally,” her brother said. “It’s just me.”

Instead of writing “Sally was tired” I wrote, “Sally rubbed her eyes and yawned.” Can’t you just see her doing that? I put a picture of Sally’s sleepiness in your head. When you read those words, you knew she was tired, even though I never mentioned the word “tired.” I changed the sentence that said, “She was scared,” to “Sally shrieked and jumped back. Her eyes grew wide and her hands shook.” I created another picture in your mind . . . using words. You figured out Sally was indeed scared by the picture I made with my words. I did not have to use the word feeling word “scared.” When you use a feeling word like “scared,” that is TELLING. Learning how to show what your character is feeling rather than telling the reader how your character feels is one of the most important skills you can learn as a young (or old) author. 

Below is a characters’ feelings chart. It lists some handy words you can use to SHOW your character’s feelings. Below the chart are examples from the comments. After reading the paragraphs below, why don’t you give it a try too?

Anne tried it out. Which feeling is Caroline showing?

Caroline’s blood boiled as she heard the next string of insults. She clenched her fists tightly, No one was going to talk about her family like that, eyes blazing she whirled around the corner straight into the sneering face of Miriam Webster.

Megs gave it a try too. Only one “telling” word. Can you find it? (relieved). She should show Emily being relieved. Suggestions on how she could do that?

As Emily Bradshaw silently crept up the dark staircase, she heard a loud thumping sound coming from somewhere very near. Eyes wide, she whirled around and peered into the vast darkness. She was then relieved, realizing that it was her own heartbeat she had heard. Turning back around, she started her quest once more, nervously taking each step with caution.

Jesseca Dawn wrote this one. Which feeling is Gail showing?

Gail’s eye’s flashed. She knotted her fist’s at her side and stomped her foot.
How dare Johnny say such a thing to Andi. she let her fist fly and it landed with a sickening punch in the pit of Johnny’s stomach. Johnny was knocked to the ground but was back up in an instant. Andi gasped as she looked into his furious eyes. “Oh, no, Gail! Watch out!” she yelled.

4reddy wrote this. Which feeling is Andi showing?

Andi threw back her head with an unladylike snort. She marched past the offender without a backwards glance. Cory felt crushed, and tried to make up for it.
“I didn’t mean to, honest!” he pleaded, his eyes begging for her approval. Andi merely lifted her face higher into the air. “You cheated Richard Blake, and I will NEVER forgive you.”

Go to writing tip #6 dead words >>

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

3 thoughts on “#5-Characters’ Feelings

  1. Maybe instead of using relieved, you can say, “A wave of relief washed over Emily when she realized the noise was only the beating of her own heart.”


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