Tags

, , , , ,

Emotional Beats | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Read for free with KU

Last month, I mentioned the launch of Emotional Beats: How to Easily Convert your Writing into Palpable Feelings. As promised, here is the next installment from the book. It lists beats you can use to convey:

Fear and Nervousness (part 1)

People in danger may experience fear first, followed by anger. This follows the usual flight vs. fight reflex. As a result, you may wish to mix these two up. Keep in mind that people may also try to hide or fight their fear or nervousness (of course, the reader knows better than to fall for that).

Body

The whole body can also be used in a beat. Consider for example the overused “he turned around.” Here are some common gestures that come as a response to fear:

  • She whirled around.
  • He spun around.
  • She twirled.
  • He pivoted his body.
  • She swung her body.
  • She straightened her back.
  • He tensed.
  • He pulled away.
  • She jerked away.
  • She reeled.
  • She shifted back in her seat as if this made it easier to shift her thoughts.
  • Every muscle went rigid.
  • She needed to run, to scream, but her body had become petrified stone.
  • His muscles froze.
  • His words grew legs, kicked her hard in the belly, drove all the breathable air from her body.
  • Her posture went limp as if all her bones had dissolved away, leaving only her skin to make due with standing.
  • Panic swelled up inside me, threatening to swallow me belly-first.

Breath

  • She gasped.
  • She drew a sharp breath.
  • He drew in a long breath.
  • She took in a deep breath.
  • Her breath caught, and then she exhaled in a series of short breaths.
  • Her breath hitched a little.
  • She drew in a stuttered gasp.
  • She drew up a shallow breath.
  • Her breath exploded from her mouth.
  • His breath quickened.
  • She panted.
  • She was breathing hard.
  • His chest rose and fell with rapid breaths.
  • She held her breath.
  • He let out a harsh breath.
  • She drew in a frustrated breath.
  • He drew in a stuttered gasp.
  • He drew up a shallow breath.
  • She bit down on sour anger.
  • A desperate gasp clipped the silence.
  • Her breath snagged hold on something inside her chest.
  • Damp breath mingled with her words.

Clothes

  • She straightened her dress with long, nervous strokes.
  • He plucked at the cuff of his shirt.
  • She picked a piece of lint from her sleeve.
  • He adjusted the lapels of his jacket.
  • He tugged at his shirt collar.
  • He adjusted his tie.
  • She smoothed down the hem of her skirt.
  • He yanked the hem of her skirt belly-high.

Eyes

  • His eyeballs seemed to sag out.
  • He rubbed his eyes with the base of his palms. His hands stopped the rubbing motion and he pushed them deep in his sockets.
  • She broke eye contact.
  • Her eyes popped wide.
  • Her eyes bulged with fright.
  • She said nothing, just stared at him blankly while chewing the inside of her mouth.
  • Her eyes flew open.
  • She froze, eyes wide, struggling to comprehend.
  • She rubbed her eyes.
  • He found an oil spot on the floor and focused on it until the stain changed shape many times over.
  • Her gaze pushed and pulled at all the uncaring faces.
  • Her frantic gaze stumbled through the bare parlor, searching for escape.
  • He bit down hard on her with his gaze.

Face, head

  • A scream sliced through the fog in her brain.
  • His pallor grew noticeably.
  • The blood drained from her face.
  • A panicked expression flittered across his handsome features.
  • Her face twitched.
  • His face soured.
  • She cringed.
  • She grimaced.
  • She glowered.
  • She attempted to let out a scream, but her throat had seized up.
  • Fear prickled her scalp.
  • His already pale visage grew leached of any color.
  • Despair gnawed at her guts.
  • Her breath stalled.
  • His skull seemed to shrink.
  • Oxygen fled his brain.
  • Fingers covered his mouth as if to hold the fear/scream inside.
  • He screeched/screamed/yelped/gasped.
  • She breathed through her open mouth.
  • Her head was full of fog.
  • Concern marred his features.
  • She scratched a vague itch on her nose.
  • He rubbed his face with both hands. When he dropped his hands back onto his knees with a slap, his hair was sticking up where he had ruffled it and his eyes looked wide, if not a little manic.
  • She closed her eyes and summoned a deep breath, holding it in. Turning her head a fraction, as though straining to hear the notes of a song playing softly in the air, she looked blindly skyward.
  • She looked like someone had just walked over her grave.
  • Her voice whipped him back.
  • Her face was blotchy as if she’d been crying.
  • He looked away and delicately pinched the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes.
  • Tears streaked down her face.
  • She scratched her nose/head.
  • He rubbed his forehead.
  • She pinched the bridge of her nose.
  • She cringed.
  • He shuddered.
  • She flinched.
  • She shivered.
  • She trembled.
  • His body shook.
  • She cowered.
  • She shrank away from him.
  • He huddled in the corner.
  • She stiffened.
  • She pulled a face of shock.
  • She wrinkled her nose, stuck her hip out and folded her arms.
  • He whipped his head around to face her.
  • She jerked her head back.
  • She turned her face away.
  • Her mouth was bone dry.
  • Fear etched his features.
  • She rubbed her temples.
  • Her head bobbed nervously.
  • Nervous whispers and giggles fluttered freely in the hot air.
  • Her head went to wagging back and forth.
  • She worked up one of those smiles the simpleminded get for no particular reason.
  • His tongue darted out of his mouth to lick his dried lips.
  • Blood and all its heat left her face and settled in her feet.

Hair

People often play with their hair when nervous (keep in mind that they may also do this when flirting). For example:

  • She ran her hand through her hair.
  • He threaded a hand through his hair.
  • He raked his fingers through his hair.
  • He shoved his hair back away from his face.
  • She toyed/played with a lock of hair.
  • She twirled her hair.
  • She wrapped a curl around her finger.
  • She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.
  • She undid her ponytail and shook out her hair.
  • She tossed her hair.
  • He buried his hands in his hair.
  • He stroked his beard.
  • He scratched his beard.
  • A chilling voice raised the hairs on the back of her neck.
  • Every hair on his scalp stood to attention, every skin cell tingled, every neuron fired.
  • The hairs on the back of his neck kept tingling in a way that signified he was being watched.
  • The fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
  • His words brought up the hairs on the back of her neck.
  • The hairs on his arm itched beneath his cotton shirt.
  • He stabbed his fingers through his hair.
  • His hair was disheveled from raking his fingers through it repeatedly.
  • He rubbed his fingers through his hair like his head had a pain deep inside.

Hands

  • She drummed her fingers on the table.
  • He tapped his fingers on the table.
  • He fidgeted.
  • She rubbed her hands on her thighs.
  • An icy panic started to creep up his extremities and into his chest.
  • She tugged at her earlobe.
  • He bit a nail.
  • She chewed on a cuticle.
  • She picked at her nails.
  • She inspected her fingernails.
  • She fiddled with her earring/bracelet.
  • He twisted the wedding ring on his finger.
  • She played with her cell phone.
  • He wrung his hands in front of his body.
  • Raising her hands, she momentarily hugged herself.
  • He folded his hands in front of him on the table.
  • He folded his hands over his chest/over his vest.
  • She shoved her hands in her pockets.
  • He jammed his hands in his front pockets.
  • She folded her arms.
  • He crossed his arms over his chest.
  • She hugged herself.
  • He wrapped his arms around himself.
  • He moved his elbow to scratch an intolerable itch in the crook of his arm.

Heart and blood

  • His heart pounded hard in his chest.
  • Her heart beat so fast, she thought it would pop out of her chest.
  • Her heart leaped like a wild stag in her throat.
  • Her heart rate kicked up a notch.
  • Her heart was rapping against her ribs, ringing in her ears.
  • Her heart beat like a drum in her chest.
  • Her heart thudded in her chest.
  • Her chest heaved in and out.
  • His chest heaved to the point that he groaned with each breath.
  • Fear clenched like a tight first around her chest.
  • His heart thudded louder and louder.
  • A weight seemed to press on her chest, robbing her of breath.
  • A tendril of panic seized his chest.
  • The ache in her chest almost seemed to explode then.
  • Panic engulfed him.
  • His heart thumped against his rib cage.  It fought for space in his chest with the air frozen in his lungs.
  • His heart beat double-time.
  • It made his blood boil.
  • It made his blood curdle.
  • His heart felt like a fist pounding the inside of his chest.
  • Her heart kicked a ruckus in her chest, mingling fear and excitement with her blood.

Laughter

  • He let out a joyless/mirthless chuckle.
  • She gave a nervous laugh.
  • He broke into a mirthless laugh.

Legs and feet

  • He paced up and down the room.
  • She shifted from one foot to the other.
  • He swayed on his feet.
  • She jiggled her foot.
  • He swung his leg.
  • She shifted her weight against the floor.
  • She crossed her legs.
  • She dragged her feet.
  • She shifted her weight between feet and rocked from side to side, like a boxer keeping his muscles warm before the bell.
  • He rocked on his heels, considering his reply.
  • He took an involuntary step backward.
  • Panic set me atop a pair of shaky twigs that used to be my legs.

Other

  • A thousand ants seemed to crawl over her skin.
  • A cold shaft of fear assailed her, so powerful that she sank down in her chair.
  • Air stalled in his lungs.
  • Fear trickled like ice water through his veins.
  • He felt as if the walls had shifted closer.
  • Ice coated his skin.
  • The horror that whiplashed through her wasn’t faked.
  • Unease rolled through him like a chilled, dark wave.
  • Warning bells went off, but he nodded.
  • Her skin felt prickly.
  • It made his skin crawl.
  • Behind us, shadowy figures shifted in the dim setting.
  • She tried to snatch hold of his words and make sense of what he meant.
  • She stewed in the salty broth of disappointment.
  • Rough edges of panic pricked her soul.
  • His voice came low, cold.
  • Promises and panic mingled with her salty tears.
  • A threat spilled from her lips.
  • Angry black/red butterflies crowded her sight.
  • Her words fell shaky and clipped.
  • Smoky black rage flung her across the loft.
  • Fear stretched her voice high and tight.

Next week: fear and nervousness (part 2). View all posts on the subject, or buy the book on Amazon – free on KU!

Advertisements