Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Surprise

Emotion Surprise

When you want to write the emotion surprise, 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.

Surprise is a sudden and unexpected feeling caused by something unexpected or unusual happening. It is a mixture of shock, astonishment, and amazement, often accompanied by physical reactions such as widened eyes, dropped jaw, and increased heart rate. In creative writing, surprise is a powerful tool to keep readers engaged and interested in the story. A well-placed surprise can elevate a plot twist, add depth to a character, and create a memorable experience for the reader.

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

Different Types of Surprise

Here are some different types of surprise:

  • Shock
  • Amazement
  • Astonishment
  • Bewilderment
  • Startle
  • Stunned
  • Stupefaction
  • Disbelief
  • Dismay

Situations Associated with Surprise

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

  • Unexpected news or information
  • Sudden changes in plans or circumstances
  • Discovering a hidden truth or secret
  • Being caught off guard by an event or situation
  • Seeing someone or something unexpected
  • Receiving an unexpected gift or opportunity
  • Witnessing an unexpected act of kindness or cruelty
  • Being unexpectedly reunited with a loved one
  • Achieving an unexpected success or failure

Physical Reactions to Surprise

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

  • Eyes widen
  • Mouth opens
  • Eyebrows raise
  • Head jerks back or forward
  • Hands fly to the mouth or chest
  • Gasping or inhaling sharply
  • Freeze or pause momentarily
  • Body tenses up
  • Heart rate increases

Thoughts Associated with Surprise

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing surprise might have:

  • I can't believe this is happening!
  • Wow, I never saw that coming.
  • How did I not know this before?
  • I'm completely taken aback.
  • What a shock!
  • This changes everything.
  • I feel like I'm in a dream.
  • I need to take a moment to process this.
  • I feel a rush of adrenaline through my body.

Atmosphere of Surprise

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

  • Use unexpected or unconventional settings that are not usually associated with the characters or the situation, such as a character finding themselves in an abandoned amusement park or a deserted hospital.
  • Create an atmosphere of tension and anticipation through the use of foreshadowing, where the reader is led to believe one thing will happen, but then a surprising turn of events occurs.
  • Use sensory details to create a sense of disorientation, such as a sudden change in temperature, an unusual smell, or a strange sound that catches the character off guard.
  • Use contrast to highlight the unexpected, such as a character finding themselves in a peaceful and serene environment after a chaotic and dangerous situation.
  • Use irony to create a sense of surprise, such as a character who is always prepared for any situation being caught off guard by something simple or mundane.
  • Use symbolism to suggest a deeper meaning or hidden truth, such as a seemingly insignificant object or detail that later becomes important and surprising.

By using these techniques, a writer can create a setting and atmosphere that mirrors the emotion of surprise, which can enhance the reader's experience and create more memorable and engaging characters.

Verbs Associated with Surprise

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

  • Gasped
  • Stunned
  • Astonished
  • Shocked
  • Flabbergasted
  • Amazed
  • Startled
  • Staggered
  • Dumbfounded
  • Bewildered
  • Astounded
  • Thunderstruck
  • Overwhelmed
  • Blown away

Emotions Before Surprise

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

  • Anticipation
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Curiosity
  • Apprehension
  • Nervousness
  • Tension
  • Suspense

Emotions After Surprise

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

  • Curiosity
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Awe
  • Relief
  • Disbelief
  • Anger
  • Sadness

Telling Surprise Examples to Avoid

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

  • She couldn't believe her eyes.
  • His jaw dropped in shock.
  • She was taken aback by the news.
  • He was dumbfounded by what he heard.
  • She was speechless with astonishment.
  • His eyes widened in amazement.
  • She was caught off guard by the sudden turn of events.
  • He was startled by the unexpected noise.
  • She gasped in disbelief.

Practical Examples of Showing Surprise

Here are some examples of showing surprise in a sentence:

  • Her eyes widened, and her mouth fell open as she saw the unexpected visitor.
  • He stumbled back a step, nearly dropping his coffee, as the news hit him.
  • She let out a gasp and covered her mouth with her hand at the sight before her.
  • His heart skipped a beat when he realized what had just happened.

Exercises for Showing Surprise

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing surprise:

  • Think about a time when you were genuinely surprised. What were you doing? Where were you? Who was involved? Use that experience as a basis for a character's surprise.
  • Write a scene where your character receives unexpected news or information. Focus on their physical reactions (such as a gasp or a widening of the eyes) as well as their internal thoughts and emotions.
  • Use a "what-if" scenario to explore surprise. For example, what if your character walked into their home to find a stranger sitting on their couch? How would they react? What would they say or do?
  • Write a scene where your character is planning a surprise for someone else. How do they feel leading up to the surprise? How do they react when the surprise is revealed?

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

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