Author Topic: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?  (Read 1715 times)

Offline Hunter

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How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« on: September 27, 2017, 10:05:39 PM »
I need some advice/help showing a character's emotion in dialogue.
Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Offline Hunter

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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 10:23:36 PM »
*In a screenplay.

Offline G. London

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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2017, 07:55:57 PM »
Get the Emotion Thesaurus to start. Search Amazon.

1. By not describing the emotion but showing it through the actions of the character.

2. In dialogue show the characters reactions to what happens.

There is a ton of info out there if you look for it. You'll have 110 pages in a screenplay as opposed to 400 pages in a novel, so you really have to be on your game.

Syd Field wrote one of the bibles on screenplays. Look it up.

Offline HPvD

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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2017, 05:32:55 AM »
I don't think that it needs to be rocketscience, simply writing,
telling how somebody speaks.

With a trembling voice, heavily breathing (running) shouting

'It's a Lion!' :)


To your Happy<i> - Writing -</i> Inspiration,


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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2017, 06:32:31 AM »
Yes, the Emotion thesaurus is an excellent tool.  You can buy it from Amazon.  There are three books, positive and negative traits thesaurus, as well.  I have all three.  A word of caution, don't copy direct from it.  The descriptions may not be true to your story. Think carefully before using the suggestions, otherwise your book will begin to sound like a Thesaurus.   :D



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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2018, 12:38:56 AM »
Here are 5 ways to reveal a character’s true emotions during dialogue:

Opposites Attract. When a character is speaking without conviction, agreeing for the sake of it or even passing off a lie, show how what he says does not mesh with what his body does. For example, if he’s agreeing with another person’s suggestion, show his affirmative response: “Sure, sounds good,” but his tone is flat, or his shoulders are bowed or his arm movements and hand gestures lack strength.

Facial Expressions.  Normally, the face does not offer a lot of options as far as emotional expression goes, but I believe the exception to that is in dialogue. A well placed grimace, eyes that go wide or a tugging of the ear can go a long way.  Facial expressions are often the body’s first reaction to another person’s dialogue. They can reveal how characters feel about what they are hearing or seeing. Just remember, less is more. Facial expressions cannot support the emotional weight of an exchange alone, and should be used with care.

Personal Distance. Everyone has an amount of personal space that feels comfortable to them. When we feel at ease, the space shrinks, but when we grow tense, the need to create more space is strong. Show this need, and what a character does to increase or erase space as they take part in a conversation.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00058]Bearing, Posture and Movement. How a character stands, sits, their posture, bearing and how their body moves within their environment is an important indicator as to how they feel. Confidence is a stiff back, exposed neck and eye contact. Doubt is a bent neck, hesitating movements, a slow stride and dropped glances. What a body does is a mirror to how a person feels, so describe your character’s actions as they engage in the conversation.

Voice! Sometimes what is said is not as revealing as how a character says it. Does their voice rise or lower in pitch? Do they rush through their words, or offer them only a few at a time? Do they employ sarcasm to mask a deeper emotion? Is there a hesitation or warble present? Most of us do not have as much control over our voices as we would like, so it is an effective and realistic way to reveal shifting emotions with our characters.

I found the above information here:

Good luck with your writing. jt

Offline Mark T

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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2018, 05:05:42 PM »
That's all very interesting and very well but the question was in dialogue. There's no body language or tone of voice or anything else like that available when for instance the narrative is just a block of dialogue. I think a lot of it is in prior character development so the reader knows when a differing emotion is being expressed. Technically, it could be sentence length and the choice of dialogue words: Eg

"Oh, shit!"
"Aww - sheeet."
'Och, shite."


Offline heartsongjt

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Re: How can I show a character's emotion in dialogue?
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2018, 12:23:48 PM »
Reader Question: How to convey a character’s emotional state in scene description?

A question from Lalithra Fernando:

So, as a director, I know not to tell actors to be a little angry here, or more happy there. This leads to generic responses in the acting, rather than specific, layered emotional responses.

When you are writing, do you also want to avoid such language?
ie. He stared at the door, angrily.
He glared at the door.
(pretty wack example, but w/e)

I suppose its about adverbs.

Anyways, when I write it out, it always seems pretty foolish, but the question comes back every time I think I’ve answered it for myself. In need of some clarification.

Lalithra, you raise a good question. On the one hand, there’s the adage about not writing anything in scene description that an actor can’t act and that the moviegoer can’t see — that basically the only thing we, as screenwriters, can include in scene description and parentheticals, is specific directions re a character’s actions. Unfortunately in working with actors, it’s preferable to
describe the character’s emotional / psychological state, tied to what plot elements are impacting them at the moment, then allow the actor to translate that into action, as opposed to telling them specifically how to act.

Which is a big reason why the old adage — “only describe what a moviegoer can see” — isn’t a hard and fast rule. In a selling script, it’s almost as important, sometimes even more so to convey the mood and feeling of the moment rather than specific character actions.

Words are Weapons of Demons and Saints