Emotion: The Significance of Word Choice

It is not just how you write that can have an emotional impact on your readers. Delving into what your character feels and how they react can elicit a strong emotional response, but emotional can also be expressed by smaller signals in your writing that hint, catch the reader off guard, or build up to something that is far greater than themselves.

The theme for this month has been emotion. The topics we have already discussed are:

  1. Identify where to place the emotion

  2. Show, don’t tell

  3. Use the scene to boost (or contrast) emotion

  4. How would your character – not you – react?

Today, we are going to consider the impact of word choice on emotion.

Words can convey many different things. Some words can convey humour or passion – think of little “add on” words that your character can say, such as “woo-hoo!” or “wow!”. In the same way, you can also convey things like uncertainty (“um …”) or boredom (“uh-huh”). The list is endless. All of these words trigger something small within the reader. Look at the way the Avengers react to Captain America saying “Language!” in The Age of Ultron. It tells you something about how the character is feeling or developing as a person.

Having an awareness of your word choice is a key emotional technique in writing. Think carefully before throwing soft, light, fluffy or funny words into a serious or dark scene – although, of course, you can do so if you wish to have that effect. In a serious scene, she probably wouldn’t giggle – but she might cackle. He probably wouldn’t smile – but he might sneer.

In the same way, common actions can be affected by word choice and develop or enhance your character to help create an emotional image. Do they request or do they demand? Do they put something on the table or do they throw it on the table? Do they hold your hand or do they grasp your hand? There are all examples of how word choice can change the mood of a scene or reveal the emotional response of a character.

Hopefully, you feel more confident about using emotion in your writing after this month – I know I do when I think about the importance of emotion and these writing tips. It can seem like a very daunting thing at first, to place powerful emotions into your writing, but if you do it with confidence and patience then you might be surprised by how effective it is. Practice makes perfect, of course!


This month’s theme is EMOTION. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of emotions, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Emotion.

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