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

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer of psychological thrillers. She also writes true crime: PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND hits bookstores by Nov. 1, 2020 (Globe Pequot, trade division of Rowman & Littlefield). Feedspot & honored Sue's blog with the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net award (Murder Blog sits at #5). 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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