The Emotion Thesaurus: Got Fear? – Guest Post by Angela Ackerman

Ever wondered if your characters are showing their fear the right way? Well, you’re in luck! ‘Cause today I’m incredibly excited to present to you The Emotion Thesaurus entry of FEAR, brought to us from the wonderful and amazing Angela Ackerman!

There just aren’t enough words to describe Angela! Hmm…. let’s see… she’s one-half of the The Bookshelf Muse (which is another must-follow blog for me), she’s incredibly kind, awesome, so much fun to chat and work with, funny, full of all sorts of writerly information… OH! And she’ll do anything for bacon! *grin* And that doesn’t even begin to cover it! (Psst! She’s even brought a goodie for a giveaway with her today! Did I mention she’s awesome?)

So without further ado, please welcome Angela!

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Hi everyone! The fantabulous Melinda kindly invited me to her blog and I am ever so happy to hang out here today. I brought with me the entry on FEAR from The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, because I know how hard it can be to show our character’s intense experiences without always reusing common fear indicators of shivering, shuddering, racing heartbeat, rasping breath and sweating. There’s nothing wrong with using these of course, as long as we apply them in moderation. So, to get your head into brainstorming gear, we’ve created seventy-five emotion entries just like this one below. Enjoy!
 

FEAR
DEFINITION: to be afraid of; to expect threat or danger

PHYSICAL SIGNALS:
Face turning ashen, white, pallid
Hair lifting on the nape and arms
Body odor, cold sweats
Clammy hands
Trembling lips and chin
Tendons standing out in the neck, a visible pulse
Elbows pressing into the sides, making one’s body as small as possible
Freezing, feeling rooted to the spot
Rapid blinking
Tight shoulders
Staring but not seeing, eyes shut or crying
Hands jammed into armpits or self-hugging
Breath bursting in and out
Leg muscles tightening, the body ready to run
Looking all around, especially behind
A shrill voice
Lowering the voice to a whisper
Keeping one’s back to a wall or corner
Shaking uncontrollably
Gripping something, knuckles going white
Stiff walking, the knees locking
Beads of sweat on the lip or forehead
Grabbing onto someone
Eyes appearing damp and overly bright
Stuttering and mispronouncing words, tremors in the voice
Jerky movements, squirming
Licking the lips, gulping down water
Sprinting or running
Sweeping a hand across the forehead to get rid of sweat
Gasping and expelling one’s breath as if pained
Uncontrollable whimpering
Pleading, talking to oneself
Flinching at noises

INTERNAL SENSATIONS:
An inability to speak
Shakiness in the limbs
Holding back a scream or cry
Heartbeat racing, nearly exploding
Dizziness, weakness in the legs and knees
A loosening of the bladder
Chest pain
Holding one’s breath, gulping down breaths to stay quiet
A stomach that feels rock hard
Hyper-sensitivity to touch and sound
Adrenaline spikes

MENTAL REACTIONS: 
Wanting to flee or hide
The sensation of things moving too quickly to process
Images of what-could-be flashing through the mind
Flawed reasoning
Jumping to a course of action without thinking things through
A skewed sense of time

CUES OF ACUTE OR LONG-TERM FEAR:
Uncontrollable trembling, fainting
Insomnia
Heart giving out
Panic attacks, phobias
Exhaustion
Depression
Substance abuse
Withdrawing from others
Tics (a repetitive grimace, a head twitch, talking to oneself)
Resistance to pain from rushing adrenaline
MAY ESCALATE TO: ANGER, TERROR, PARANOIA, DREAD

CUES OF SUPPRESSED FEAR:
Keeping silent
Denying fear through diversion or topic change
Turning away from the cause of the fear
Attempting to keep one’s voice light
A watery smile that’s forced into place
Masking fear with a reactive emotion (anger or frustration)
False bravado
Over-indulgence in a habit (nail biting, lip biting, scratching the skin raw)
A frozen or shaking smile
A joking tone, but the voice cracks
 

WRITER’S TIP: Prime readers for an emotional experience by describing the mood of a scene as your character enters it. If your character is antsy, the reader will be too.

 
As you can see, there are many ways to show a character’s fear, and this list is only a starting point! Think about your character, and what types of expressions will be unique to him or her. This will bring you one step closer to creating fresh body language and really pull the reader into your character’s emotional experience.
PSST! If you would like to see which seventy-five emotions the book covers and find out more about The Emotion Thesaurus, there’s a generous sample on Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Also, we have a free PDF on our blog called Emotion Amplifiers, which offers lists like the one above for fifteen conditions like Attraction, Stress, Hunger, Pain, Exhaustion, etc. These amplifiers can alter a character’s mental and physical state, ensuring bigger emotional reactions. You can find the download button right in the sidebar.

 

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Angela Ackerman is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.  Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with seventy-five different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.
 

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Melinda here! Okay, so now we all know that when we write to convey the fear in our characters we’re supposed to include smiles, squees, and booty dancin’, right? *snort* Just kidding!!!
 
My favorite thing about this particular entry – and ALL the entries in The Emotion Thesaurus, actually – is how Angela and Becca captured the smaller nuances a character shows when experiencing an emotion. With fear, it’s the rapid eye blinking and/or eyes appearing damp and overly bright, and dizziness and hyper-sensitivity. They’ve got these emotions down, and those signs I just named may be small, but they are POWERFUL when they’re on the page in a high-tension scene!
 
And in order to help you bring that power to the page, Angela brought with her a PDF version of The Emotion Thesaurus as a giveaway today! How awesome is that?!?
 
To enter, all you need to do is complete a little information in the Rafflecopter section below. The giveaway will end tomorrow night at midnight. Be sure you not only get your first entry by leaving a comment, but your additional entries by following The Bookshelf Muse blog, following Angela and/or me on Twitter, adding The Emotion Thesaurus to one of your shelves on Goodreads, and liking The Emotion Thesaurus’s Facebook page.
 
The winner will be announced on Friday’s This Week in Favs… writing links round-up post!
 
Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

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