Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Anxiety

Emotion Anxiety

When you want to write the emotion anxiety, it's important to "show" the emotion your character is experiencing through their physical reactions and dialogue, rather than "tell" it. In this article we provide you with inspiration so you can avoid showing emotions and immerse your readers in your story.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, nervousness, or worry about a future event or uncertain outcome. It often involves physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and an increased heart rate. Anxiety can range from mild to severe and can be a normal response to stressful situations, but it can also become a chronic condition that significantly impacts a person's daily life. It is important for writers to understand anxiety and how it affects their characters in order to write realistic and engaging portrayals.

  1. Different Types of Anxiety
  2. Situations Associated with Anxiety
  3. Physical Reactions to Anxiety
  4. Thoughts Associated with Anxiety
  5. Atmosphere of Anxiety
  6. Verbs Associated with Anxiety
  7. Emotions Before Anxiety
  8. Emotions After Anxiety
  9. Telling Anxiety Examples to Avoid
  10. Practical Examples of Showing Anxiety
  11. Exercises for Showing Anxiety

Different Types of Anxiety

Here are some different types of anxiety:

  • Generalized Anxiety: a persistent feeling of worry and fear that is not related to any specific threat or situation.
  • Social Anxiety: a fear of social situations and interactions that can lead to avoidance of social events and difficulty in forming relationships.
  • Panic Disorder: sudden and intense attacks of fear and anxiety that can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and trembling.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): a condition characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that can be driven by anxiety.

Situations Associated with Anxiety

Here are some situations where a character might experience the emotion of anxiety:

  • Facing an uncertain or dangerous situation
  • Feeling overwhelmed by a task or responsibility
  • Dealing with a traumatic past experience or memory
  • Anticipating a negative outcome or consequence
  • Being in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment
  • Feeling pressured to perform or meet expectations
  • Coping with a chronic illness or condition
  • Struggling with social anxiety or fear of judgment
  • Experiencing a significant life change or transition

Physical Reactions to Anxiety

Here are some physical reactions a character experiencing anxiety might have:

  • Increased heart rate and breathing
  • Sweating or trembling
  • Restlessness or fidgeting
  • Avoidance or withdrawal from certain situations
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Overthinking or excessive worrying
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Muscle tension or headaches

Thoughts Associated with Anxiety

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing anxiety might have:

  • What if I mess up?
  • I can't do this.
  • I feel like I'm drowning.
  • Why is everyone else so calm?
  • I'm going to fail.
  • What if I disappoint everyone?
  • My heart is racing.
  • I can't catch my breath.
  • I'm so nervous.

Atmosphere of Anxiety

Here are some ways that you might reflect the emotion of anxiety in the atmosphere of your scene:

  • Use a description of the weather to create a sense of foreboding or unease, such as dark clouds, thunder, or lightning.
  • Describe the setting in a way that makes it feel claustrophobic or cramped, like a small room with low ceilings or a crowded street.
  • Use sensory details to create a feeling of discomfort or unease, like the smell of something rotten or the sound of a ticking clock.
  • Use short, choppy sentences to create a sense of urgency or panic in the narrative.
  • Incorporate elements of uncertainty or unpredictability into the setting, like an unfamiliar location or an untrustworthy character.
  • Describe the body language of characters in a way that conveys anxiety, like shaking hands or fidgeting.
  • Use details that create a sense of isolation or confinement, such as being trapped in a small space or feeling cut off from the outside world.

Verbs Associated with Anxiety

Here are some verbs commonly associated with the emotion of anxiety:

  • Tremble
  • Fret
  • Worry
  • Panic
  • Hyperventilate
  • Pace
  • Shake
  • Stutter
  • Obsess
  • Avoid
  • Nervous
  • Quiver
  • Clench
  • Twitch

Emotions Before Anxiety

Here are some emotions that may come before a character experiences anxiety:

  • Apprehension
  • Fear
  • Concern
  • Nervousness
  • Unease
  • Tension
  • Worry
  • Doubt
  • Insecurity
  • Paranoia
  • Panic

Emotions After Anxiety

Here are some emotions that may come after a character experiences anxiety:

  • Relief
  • Exhaustion
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Gratitude
  • Empathy

Telling Anxiety Examples to Avoid

Here are some examples of telling the emotion anxiety in a sentence. You should avoid things like this:

  • John was feeling anxious about the meeting tomorrow.
  • Sarah's anxiety was getting worse as the deadline approached.
  • The thought of public speaking made Tom anxious.
  • Mary's anxiety was so overwhelming that she couldn't concentrate on anything else.
  • Jack felt a knot in his stomach as he thought about the interview.

It's worth noting that while these sentences do tell the reader that the character is feeling anxious, they don't really show us what that anxiety looks like or feels like. To create more engaging and immersive writing, it's usually better to show emotions through actions, thoughts, and dialogue rather than simply telling the reader what the character is feeling.

Practical Examples of Showing Anxiety

Here are some examples of showing anxiety in a sentence:

  • She twisted her fingers together, tapping them against her knee, as she waited for the phone to ring.
  • His heart raced as he scanned the crowded room, searching for a familiar face.
  • The sound of footsteps approaching from behind made her jump and turn around quickly.
  • She couldn't concentrate on anything else, her mind consumed with worry about what might happen next.

Exercises for Showing Anxiety

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing anxiety:

  • Start by brainstorming situations that would naturally cause anxiety, such as a job interview, a first date, or a deadline.
  • Imagine a character experiencing anxiety in one of these situations and write a scene from their perspective.
  • Use sensory details to convey the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating, shaking, or shortness of breath.
  • Consider the character's thoughts and inner dialogue, including their worries and self-doubt.
  • Experiment with different writing styles, such as stream-of-consciousness or fragmented sentences, to convey the character's racing thoughts.
  • Write a scene where the character tries to calm themselves down, such as through deep breathing or positive self-talk.
  • Explore how the character's anxiety affects their relationships with others, such as pushing them away or making them clingy.
  • Think about how the character's anxiety may be rooted in past experiences or trauma and how this might impact their current situation.
  • Try writing from the perspective of a secondary character observing the anxious character, and how they interpret their behavior.

Want more help with showing emotion instead of telling? You find more help in our full emotions thesaurus.

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