Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Panic

Emotion Panic

When you want to write the emotion panic, 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 instead of telling and immerse your readers in your story.

Panic is an intense feeling of fear or anxiety that is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. It is a sudden and overwhelming response to a perceived threat or danger, real or imagined. Panic can be triggered by various situations or stimuli, such as a traumatic event, a phobia, or a feeling of loss of control. It can be a debilitating emotion that can interfere with a person's ability to function and think clearly.

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

Different Types of Panic

Here are some different types of panic:

  • Agitation
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Terror
  • Apprehension
  • Dread
  • Uneasiness
  • Nervousness
  • Fright

Situations Associated with Panic

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

  • Being trapped or confined in a small space
  • Facing a life-threatening situation, such as a fire, natural disaster, or violent attack
  • Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, such as an accident or crime
  • Losing a loved one unexpectedly
  • Being in a high-pressure situation, such as a performance or public speaking event
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities or expectations
  • Confronting a phobia or fear
  • Facing a sudden change in circumstances, such as a job loss or unexpected move
  • Dealing with a chronic illness or health condition

Physical Reactions to Panic

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

  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Sweating or clammy skin
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulty swallowing or feeling a lump in the throat
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling of being trapped or unable to escape
  • Racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
  • Pacing or fidgeting
  • Crying or screaming
  • Seeking reassurance or help from others

Thoughts Associated with Panic

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing panic might have:

  • I can't breathe, I can't breathe!
  • What if I mess everything up?
  • My heart is racing so fast, I feel like it's going to explode!
  • I need to get out of here, I need to escape!
  • Why is this happening to me? Why now?
  • I'm not ready for this, I don't know what to do!
  • I feel like I'm losing control, I can't stop shaking!
  • What if something terrible happens?
  • I need to find a way out, I need to find a solution!

Atmosphere of Panic

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

  • Use short, choppy sentences to convey a sense of urgency and unease
  • Incorporate physical descriptions of the surroundings that are chaotic or overwhelming
  • Include sensory details that heighten the feeling of panic, such as a pounding heartbeat or a sense of suffocation
  • Use metaphors or similes that evoke feelings of being trapped or overwhelmed
  • Consider incorporating a ticking clock or countdown to increase tension
  • Use dialogue that reflects the characters' rising anxiety or desperation
  • Incorporate moments of confusion or disorientation to reflect the feeling of being overwhelmed

Verbs Associated with Panic

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

  • Shiver
  • Tremble
  • Quiver
  • Tremor
  • Hyperventilate
  • Gasp
  • Scream
  • Wail
  • Whimper
  • Stammer
  • Freeze
  • Bolt
  • Flee
  • Run
  • Hide
  • Clench
  • Sweat
  • Shake

Emotions Before Panic

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

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Apprehension
  • Unease
  • Nervousness
  • Dread
  • Tension
  • Worry
  • Uncertainty

Emotions After Panic

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

  • Relief
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Embarrassment
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Sadness
  • Disappointment
  • Resentment
  • Vulnerability

Telling Panic Examples to Avoid

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

  • She felt panicked.
  • He was panicking.
  • Panic set in.
  • She was freaking out.
  • He felt overwhelmed by panic.
  • Her heart was racing with panic.
  • He was paralyzed with panic.
  • She was consumed by panic.
  • He couldn't think straight due to panic.

Practical Examples of Showing Panic

Here are some examples of showing panic in a sentence:

  • My heart raced as I fumbled for my phone, desperate to call for help.
  • I stumbled backwards, tripping over my own feet as I tried to escape the burning building.
  • The world around me blurred into a dizzying mess as I struggled to catch my breath.
  • My hands shook uncontrollably as I realized I had lost my wallet and all my identification.

Exercises for Showing Panic

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing panic:

  • Begin by brainstorming situations that could trigger panic in your character. Jot down as many ideas as possible.
  • Write a scene where your character experiences a panic attack. Focus on the physical sensations and emotions your character might feel during this experience.
  • Create a character profile for someone who struggles with panic attacks. Consider their background, triggers, coping mechanisms, and how their panic disorder affects their daily life.
  • Write a dialogue between two characters, where one is trying to calm the other down during a moment of panic. Pay attention to the words and tone used by each character.
  • Take a moment to observe your own body when you feel panicked. Write down the physical sensations you experience. Use these observations to inform your character's reactions in your writing.
  • Write a scene where your character is in a crowded or overwhelming situation, such as a concert or a busy street. Show how their panic intensifies as the situation becomes more overwhelming.
  • Consider how your character's panic might affect their relationships with others. Write a scene where your character's panic causes a conflict or misunderstanding with someone close to them.

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

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