Every story compels a reader to empathize with the underlying emotions of characters. Readers identify key characters and mirror their emotions. The best stories allow us to experience the events portrayed. However, readers can’t experience a character’s emotions if you don’t write them effectively.

In this article, we will discuss six ways to effectively express the feelings of fictional characters.

Body Language

55% of human communication is non-verbal. Clearly, our body language is a great outlet for our emotions. We communicate more through our behavior than we do with words. In story writing, body language portrays the feelings stirring inside a character. Therefore, we can leverage it effectively in our writing.

Writers often focus too much on facial features such as lip pinching and eyes narrowing, not realizing other non-verbal cues are much more effective. Dread and excitement look different and so do gratitude and grief.

Portraying shaking fingers rising slowly to rub the lip; shoulders slumping down momentarily before stiffening again; and a hand splayed across the chest, all showcase that a character is grateful. The best way to portray these scenes is to put yourself in the character’s shoes and reimagine the scene with yourself in it.


Like us, characters in stories can also showcase their emotions through thoughts, especially when the character is explaining a narrative in a plotline. Swept up by emotion, a character’s thoughts can follow certain patterns, which are based on their personality.

For instance, if someone is worried, they can easily jump to conclusions and fear for the worst situations. Likewise, when a character feels skeptical, he will showcase doubt and will poke holes in stories and evidence that goes against their intuition.

On the other hand, when a character is feeling scornful, she might reveal ugly thoughts that portray other characters in the worst light. Make sure you shape your characters’ thoughts based on their personality and the situation they are dealing with.

Internal Sensations

Internal sensations are the immediate reactions people showcase when put in certain situations. These emotions include warm feelings of security when a loved one hugs you, a fearful spike when you feel that you’re falling, or flustering panic when you suddenly remember something important you were supposed to do.

Mostly, these emotions are forceful, sudden, and powerful, leaving a lasting impact on a character. Leveraging these emotions in fiction writing helps you showcase the vulnerable side of your characters. Readers understand sudden internal sensations and can relate to what your character feels. However, overusing these emotions can make your story feel overdramatic.


Characters can express their feelings through their posture as well. Posture is another type of non-verbal communication indicating the character’s state of mind. Leveraging it in your stories enables you to paint a character’s state of mind.

Does the character have his chest thrust out, brimming with confidence? Is he bent down, overcome with the feeling of bereavement and loss? Has he crossed his arms in anger and frustration? Is the character not facing the narrator, indicating that he is distracted or in a hurry? Your character’s posture can showcase a wide range of emotions. It is up to you how to leverage it in a story

Personal Space

Every character has a bubble of personal space. Whether extroverts, introverts, or ambiverts, characters need a space where they feel relaxed and safe. Their idea of a safe space may widen or narrow, but it can illustrate what a character is feeling in the moment. This is why many writers leverage violations of personal space to indicate how the character is feeling.


Dialogue can be another way to efficiently showcase a character’s state of mind. People seldom confess their emotions directly. They tend to beat around the bush, avoiding their feelings instead of embracing them.

For instance, when someone is angry, they would rather vent about something that makes them upset instead of admitting that they are just angry. Dialogue is an excellent way to portray emotions if it is realistic. What characters say or refrain from discussing showcases how they are feeling deep inside.


Writing stories is a demanding job. You not only have to craft interesting characters, but mold your character based on certain personalities. If you want to find out if your character’s emotional expression fits neatly with their arc and personality, consider our professional fiction editing service, carried out by published authors and editors. If you want to learn more about our services, don’t hesitate to visit our website.