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How do you Show Emotion?

by on January 30, 2014


We had Recognition month at work. Tuesday was Talent Day. So I gave a crash course in creative writing. I think my favorite part of writing….wait for it… not sex scenes. I abhor action scenes although I am getting better. What I really love is showing emotion.

I use a host of media outside of memories and life changing events that give me the emotion I need to enhance a scene.

One of my favorite books is The Emotional Thesaurus. It is fantastic.

If you haven’t saved. Book Shelve Muses. You should.

I also keep Johanna Waugh’s Cue to Emotion and Body Language.

And finally Wicki’s Senses.

If I’m not in a feel like the character mood. I’ll pop open youtube and click on my history for saved videos to take me deep into the particular emotion.

For me, the best way to layer emotion is to use facial expressions, body posturing, tenor and voice inflection, the scene setting, and all of the 13 senses, and internal thought. Keep in mind what ISN’T said, can be more powerful that what is.

I’m working on Kiss Me Deadly right now. The hardest part of this story was writing a first chapter that took place two years ago, because it dealt with death and the total toll that takes on the mind, spirit and body. While death is the easiest thing to bring across what’s hard to show is how grief can affect others differently.


Rough not edited.

Helplessness surged through Jimmy, adding to the soul crippling grief.  Before the service, his father commanded him to keep a tight leash on his emotions, to be strong for his mother and for Sameera. Unlike his dear old dad, he wasn’t a cold-hearted bastard. For all the beatings and drilling, his old man never succeeded in teaching him how to cut off hurt, anger, sadness like a water tap.  Fuck, he barely survived the funeral service, speaking the eulogy for his older brother with a strained voice.  Huddled with family, he watched the casket team from First Special Forces Group carry the flag draped casket of his brother Sergeant First Class Miles O’Riley.

The urge to drown himself in the bottle hit Jimmy hard. He could taste the bitter sludge as if he held an open container instead of wishing one was available. Fuck he didn’t do depressing. He didn’t do emotion. Show weakness, do the whole somber atmosphere that came with burying the dead.

The dead. His only brother, his fiercest ally, lay in the sleek black box draped with the American flag, while the preacher droned on about his path to heaven, his sacrifice for the country not going unnoticed. He should be there with him, getting ready to start a family, getting married to the most beautiful girl in the world, spending time with him on the road. Not ending with a tragic story. Not cut down by enemy fire. Not killed like this, not without a chance to say goodbye, not with a closed casket.

Goddamn he hated God, hated his sanctimonious father, hated war and at the moment, hated the United States Military.  If he was honest, he hated his goddamn brother too, for being such a fucking hero, for going up and beyond—for choosing country over family—for leaving him.

What killed him most? The two women next to him sobbing buckets… Their pain cutting him to the quick. He couldn’t help them, couldn’t make the situation all right. Nothing about this would ever be right, ever feel justifiable. His mother lost a son, his fiancé lost a future, his father, the favored son, much rather he’d have wished he’d died than his older brother.

Jimmy lowered his head into the shadows shedding a trail of invisible tears from his soul. Avoiding a show of physical ones, not wanting to incur the wrath and displeasure of his father for showing weakness.  Clenching his and unclenching his hands, he fought to breathe. In the midst of it all, the sweet smell of sunshine wafted over him, obliterated the angst.  A slender hand closed over his. Sameera stepped into his arms hugging him for dear life. Her body language melting with his.  Like old times, he kissed the top of her head and crushed her in his arms.


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