Despite what the internet implies, a large chunk of human communication doesn’t occur through the spoken or written word. Instead it occurs through body language. That means that successful writers have to understand how to portray emotions and responses using the language of the body.
I’ve discussed how to write emotions before, but I’ve found another quick guide for writers who want to portray feelings.
Amanda Patterson over at Writers Write have created a several cheat sheets for translating emotions into written words. The chart to describes nearly 50 feelings, and I’m highlighting a few of my favorites here.
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Disbelief – wide-eyed (shock), narrow-eyed (skeptical), twist mouth, crinkle nose, crease brow
Pleasure – tilt head back, part lips slightly, eyes wide or closed, languorous movements, stretch, arch neck or back, flush, quick breath and pulse
Smugness – slight close-lipped smile, one raised eyebrow, slightly tucked chin, enigmatic smile, raised eyebrows, steeple fingers
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These are some great ways of depicting emotion, but they also remind me that physical responses to emotion are culturally specific. Though some aspects of body language are international in scope, others develop more regionally. The way someone shows anger in New Zealand might differ from the way someone expresses that emotion in China. It is certainly something to keep in mind.
Make sure to check out the full page of Amanda Patterson’s emotion cheat sheets. They are wonderful to peruse.