Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Shame

Emotion Shame

When you want to write the emotion shame, 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 show; don't tell and immerse your readers in your story.

Shame is a powerful and often overwhelming emotion that arises from a sense of inadequacy, guilt or disgrace. It is a feeling of being exposed, humiliated, and unworthy, often resulting from a perceived failure to meet societal or personal standards. Shame can be experienced in various ways, ranging from mild embarrassment to intense humiliation, and can have profound effects on a person's self-esteem, relationships, and mental health.

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

Different Types of Shame

Here are some different types of shame:

  • Humiliation: feeling embarrassed and exposed in front of others.
  • Guilt: feeling responsible for a negative outcome or action.
  • Self-blame: feeling like you are at fault for something that went wrong, even if it wasn't entirely your fault.
  • Self-consciousness: feeling overly aware of your own behavior or appearance, leading to discomfort or insecurity.
  • Regret: feeling remorse or disappointment about a past action or decision.
  • Inadequacy: feeling like you are not good enough or capable enough, leading to a sense of shame or embarrassment.
  • Betrayal: feeling ashamed or embarrassed by the actions of someone you trusted or relied upon.

Situations Associated with Shame

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

  • Failing to meet personal or societal expectations
  • Being caught in a lie or deception
  • Being publicly humiliated or shamed
  • Feeling responsible for a negative outcome or situation
  • Being rejected or abandoned by someone they value
  • Being judged or criticized by others
  • Being unable to control their actions or impulses
  • Feeling guilty or remorseful for their actions
  • Being unable to live up to their own moral code or values

Physical Reactions to Shame

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

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Looking down or slouching
  • Blushing or flushing
  • Covering the face with hands or hair
  • Fidgeting or wringing hands
  • Speaking quietly or hesitantly
  • Withdrawing or isolating oneself
  • Apologizing excessively or unnecessarily
  • Self-critical or self-blaming thoughts
  • Hiding or concealing oneself or behavior
  • Overcompensating or trying too hard to please others

Thoughts Associated with Shame

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing shame might have:

  • I can't believe I did that, what will they think of me?
  • I'm so embarrassed, I wish I could just disappear.
  • I'm such a failure, I can't even do this right.
  • I don't deserve to be happy, I messed everything up.
  • I'm afraid to face them, they'll know how much of a disappointment I am.
  • I should have known better, why did I even try?
  • I'm not good enough, I'll never be able to make it up to them.

Atmosphere of Shame

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

  • Choose a setting that is private or secluded, such as a bedroom or a bathroom, to convey a sense of secrecy and isolation that often accompanies shame.
  • Use dim lighting or shadows to create a somber, introspective mood that mirrors the character's feelings of inadequacy or guilt.
  • Incorporate elements of decay or neglect into the environment to suggest a sense of shame or failure, such as peeling wallpaper or broken furniture.
  • Use weather or natural phenomena to reflect the character's emotions, such as a stormy night or a barren, desolate landscape.
  • Incorporate sensory details, such as smells or textures, that evoke feelings of disgust or discomfort to heighten the character's shame.

Verbs Associated with Shame

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

  • Hiding
  • Avoiding
  • Blaming
  • Regretting
  • Apologizing
  • Withdrawing
  • Denying
  • Suppressing
  • Condemning
  • Judging
  • Disguising
  • Concealing
  • Covering up
  • Punishing

Emotions Before Shame

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

  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt
  • Humiliation
  • Regret
  • Disappointment
  • Self-consciousness
  • Vulnerability
  • Exposed
  • Awkwardness

Emotions After Shame

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

  • Guilt
  • Regret
  • Self-doubt
  • Humiliation
  • Embarrassment
  • Disappointment
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inadequacy
  • Inferiority
  • Insecurity

Telling Shame Examples to Avoid

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

  • She felt ashamed of her behavior last night.
  • He was embarrassed and felt guilty about what he had said to her.
  • She hung her head in shame and avoided eye contact.
  • He felt humiliated and regretted his actions.
  • She was ashamed of how she had let herself go over the years.
  • He felt ashamed of his lack of success compared to his peers.
  • She couldn't shake the feeling of shame after being caught in a lie.
  • He felt embarrassed and ashamed for not standing up for himself.
  • She was filled with shame and regret for not speaking out sooner.

Practical Examples of Showing Shame

Here are some examples of showing shame in a sentence:

  • She lowered her gaze and shuffled her feet.
  • He covered his face with his hands and turned away.
  • She swallowed hard and hugged herself tightly.
  • He bit his lip and nodded, unable to meet her eyes.

Exercises for Showing Shame

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing shame:

  • Start by defining what shame means to you and how it manifests in different situations.
  • Think of a personal experience where you felt shame and try to describe the physical sensations and thoughts that accompanied it.
  • Write a scene where your character is confronted with a shameful situation. Describe how they react, what they do, and how they feel.
  • Create a character who is defined by their shame. What events or circumstances led them to feel this way? How does it affect their relationships and choices?
  • Write a dialogue between two characters, where one of them is trying to confront the other about their shameful behavior. How do they react? Is there a resolution?
  • Experiment with using body language and non-verbal cues to convey shame. How does your character hold themselves? Do they avoid eye contact?
  • Try writing a scene from the perspective of a character who is witnessing someone else's shameful behavior. How do they feel? What do they do?
  • Explore the idea of shame as a motivator. Can it inspire change or lead to self-improvement? Write a scene where your character uses their shame to fuel their actions.

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

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