Reader Friday: What’s Your Favorite Emotion to Portray?


On TKZ, we’ve been known to beat the show-don’t-tell drum, because it makes the scene come alive. When a writer nails an emotion so perfectly, it’s easy to visualize the moment.

What’s your favorite emotion to portray?

What’s your crutch body cue that you edit out?

Care to share a favorite line or two from your WIP, published book, or from a story you’ve read that shows a vivid emotion?

Please also share the circumstances surrounding the character, so we can appreciate the emotion in the right setting.

This entry was posted in #amwriting, #ReaderFriday, Writing and tagged , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-8 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

16 thoughts on “Reader Friday: What’s Your Favorite Emotion to Portray?

  1. Sadness & grief are interesting emotions to portray, especially when addressing a male reaction versus a female reaction. Not every man is stoic & not every woman is a crier & actions speak louder. It’s important to know your character & how they would react as individuals & be consistent as to motives, not cliched.

    My crutch body cue is the “single tear.” There are only so many ways to describe a person crying from their POV but it’s a description I look for when editing. A crutch for me.

    A fun post, Sue. Have a good weekend, girlfriend.

    • Ah, yes, the difference between genders. I often think, “How would my hubby react? How would our male neighbor differ? What about the dude at the butcher? He’s the polar opposite.”

      My crutch is a shrug. I’m constantly searching for it while editing. There’s only so many ways to portray indifference, so it’s a tricky emotion.

      Thanks, Jordan. You too! (((hugs)))

      P.S. I set the post to go live at 6 a.m. EST, but obviously, I missed something when calculating West coast to East coast time zones. *facepalm*

  2. My crutch is characters who are endlessly looking, staring, or glancing at each other. A wide range of emotions can be shown with a meaningful look–irony, humor, solicitude, pity, empathy, regret, shame, guilt, loss, triumph, joy, sorrow, love, hate, indifference, etc. The challenge is how to describe the meeting of the eyes in a fresh way.

    My favorite emotion to portray is the melding of joy and sorrow. It’s also the most difficult. Something positive happens but the price is tragedy. For instance, a reconciliation between estranged family members that’s prompted by a diagnosis of a terminal illness.

    Provocative questions, Sue. Thanks!

    • Eyes are a challenge, Debbie. There’s few words to actually say “eyes” & I fight not to fall into the trap of eyes that drop or fall (as in pop out of the head & fall) versus “a gaze” that shifts.

      • Gestures that portray emotion are ALL a problem for me. Too much shrugging, eyebrows winging, nodding, lips flattening, eyes narrowing. However, the eye thing is one that doesn’t bother me much – from a blog post I did years ago:

        There seem to be two schools of thought on this one. I’m on the side that doesn’t mind. I understand that ‘eye’ can be used as a noun or a verb. “He eyed her” is acceptable. “He gave her the eye” is an idiom I have no trouble with. I don’t see him extracting an eyeball and handing it to her. So if a characters eyes move, I don’t get visions of eyeballs floating free.

        • I agree on these crutches for me. Nodding, lips flattening, eyes narrowing, shrugging.

          The eyes are a dilemma. So are lifting arms, lol.

          My favorite emotions to portray are love and hope. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a couple, even a family’s love for one another works.

    • Debbie …

      Something positive happens but the price is tragedy. For instance, a reconciliation between estranged family members that’s prompted by a diagnosis of a terminal illness.

      Sounds like a memorable scene!

  3. My favorite emotion is pain. To read and write and see portrayed realistically on screen/stage.

    I also have a problem with characters glancing. I just can’t keep track of where the character is looking, and I guess the screenwriting advice that a person can’t look at one thing for too long is stuck somewhere in my mind. But back to pain, it isn’t a crutch yet, but I think I’ll have to watch for the phrase “pain wracked his body” soon enough.

  4. Emotion: Anger or rage

    Crutch: Sighing. So. Much. Sighing.

    I’m finishing up a scene that ends with a young woman slicing a man’s hand with a paring knife when he tries to stop her from leaving the room.

    Although…I struggle with emotions. Action is always my fallback. Am always trying to deepen my characters, but I worry I’ll slow the pace too much. Decisions, decisions.

    Fun post! (Late to the party, per usual. Cheers!)

    • I feel your pain, Laura. My editor loves to harp on me for more emotion in dialogue. My first inclination is to write a rapid-fire conversation. She’s right, of course. Emotion adds another layer. Thank God for good editors.


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