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Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Dread

Emotion Dread

When you want to write the emotion dread, 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 emotional tells and immerse your readers in your story.

Dread is a feeling of intense fear or apprehension about a future event or situation. It is often characterized by a sense of foreboding and a feeling of being overwhelmed by a looming threat that is beyond one's control. Dread can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as uncertainty, insecurity, or a perceived lack of control over one's circumstances. It is a powerful emotion that can have a profound impact on a character's thoughts, actions, and relationships.

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

Different Types of Dread

Here are some different types of dread:

  • Anticipatory Dread: The feeling of anxiety and fear towards an upcoming event or situation.
  • Existential Dread: The feeling of unease or anxiety about the meaninglessness or purposelessness of life.
  • Dread of the Unknown: The feeling of fear and anxiety towards something that is unknown or unfamiliar.
  • Dread of the Known: The feeling of fear and anxiety towards something that is known or familiar but still causes discomfort or unease.
  • Dread of Consequences: The feeling of fear and anxiety towards the potential negative outcomes or consequences of a decision or action.

Situations Associated with Dread

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

  • Facing an impending danger or threat
  • Receiving bad news or hearing about a tragic event
  • Being stuck in a situation with no clear way out
  • Realizing they have made a mistake with serious consequences
  • Being confronted with a past mistake or trauma
  • Feeling helpless or powerless in a situation
  • Anticipating a difficult conversation or confrontation
  • Experiencing a sense of foreboding or premonition
  • Witnessing someone else experiencing a terrifying event

Physical Reactions to Dread

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

  • An uneasy feeling in the stomach or chest
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sweating or trembling
  • A feeling of being frozen or stuck in place
  • Avoidance of certain situations or people
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Tense muscles or a feeling of stiffness
  • Nervous habits such as biting nails or tapping feet

Thoughts Associated with Dread

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing dread might have:

  • I can feel my heart racing.
  • My palms are sweaty.
  • I feel like I can't breathe.
  • What if the worst happens?
  • I don't want to face this.
  • I wish I could just run away.
  • Why did I have to get myself into this situation?
  • I'm afraid of what might happen next.
  • I feel like I'm in danger.

Atmosphere of Dread

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

  • Create a sense of foreboding through the use of dark, shadowy settings such as abandoned buildings, dark alleys, or cemeteries.
  • Use weather to set the mood, such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, or foggy nights.
  • Have characters express fear or anxiety through their dialogue or body language.
  • Add suspenseful music or sound effects to enhance the feeling of dread.
  • Use descriptive language to convey a sense of unease or impending danger, such as describing the sound of footsteps approaching or the feeling of eyes watching from the shadows.
  • Have characters encounter unsettling objects or symbols, such as a broken mirror or a black cat crossing their path.

Verbs Associated with Dread

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

  • Tremble
  • Quiver
  • Shudder
  • Recoil
  • Flinch
  • Wince
  • Freeze
  • Cower
  • Tremor
  • Panic
  • Dread
  • Fret
  • Worry
  • Agonize
  • Brood
  • Obsess
  • Despair
  • Anguish
  • Suffer

Emotions Before Dread

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

  • Apprehension
  • Unease
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Suspicion
  • Paranoia
  • Nervousness
  • Trepidation
  • Anticipation (of something negative)

Emotions After Dread

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

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Helplessness
  • Despair
  • Terror
  • Dread (recurring)
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion
  • Resignation

Telling Dread Examples to Avoid

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

  • John felt a sense of dread wash over him.
  • The room was filled with an overwhelming feeling of dread.
  • As soon as she saw the dark clouds on the horizon, dread settled in her stomach.
  • The sound of footsteps approaching filled him with dread.
  • The letter he received filled him with a sense of dread.
  • She couldn't shake the feeling of dread that had been following her all day.
  • The thought of what was to come filled him with dread.
  • The silence in the room was suffocating, and she felt nothing but dread.
  • The smell of smoke filled her nostrils and dread overtook her.

Practical Examples of Showing Dread

Here are some examples of showing dread in a sentence:

  • Her heart pounded as she approached the dark, abandoned house.
  • Every creaking floorboard sent shivers down his spine.
  • She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched.
  • He knew something terrible was going to happen; he just didn't know when.

Exercises for Showing Dread

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing dread:

  • Write a scene where the character is anticipating a terrible event or situation. Describe their physical reactions, such as trembling hands, sweating, or a racing heart.
  • Write a backstory for the character that includes a traumatic event that still haunts them and causes them to feel dread in certain situations.
  • Write a scene where the character is trapped or in a dangerous situation they cannot escape from. Describe their thoughts and emotions as they realize the gravity of the situation.
  • Write a scene where the character discovers a dark secret or learns that someone they trusted is not who they thought they were. Describe their feelings of betrayal and fear.
  • Write a scene where the character is alone in a dark or unfamiliar place. Describe their heightened senses and their imagination running wild with worst-case scenarios.

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

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