EMOTION THESAURUS

FEAR



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HELPFUL TIP:

The inner landscape of your characters (especially your protagonist) is the lifeblood that runs through your story. Emotions, and how they're expressed, are tied deeply to a character’s personality and which positive traits and negative traits will manifest. To bring your readers in deeper through shared experience, consider filtering the setting descriptions through your character’s emotions while also exploring important colors, textures, and shapes through his or her senses.
DEFINITION:
To be afraid of; to expect threat or danger

PHYSICAL SIGNALS AND BEHAVIORS:
Face turning ashen, white, pallid
Hair lifting on the nape and arms
Body odor, cold sweats
Clammy hands
Trembling lips and chin
Tendons standing out in the neck, a visible pulse
Elbows pressing into the sides, making one’s body as small as possible
Freezing, feeling rooted to the spot
Rapid blinking
Tight shoulders
Staring but not seeing, eyes shut or crying
Hands jammed into armpits or self-hugging
Breath bursting in and out
Leg muscles tightening, the body ready to run
Looking all around, especially behind
A shrill voice
Lowering the voice to a whisper
Keeping one’s back to a wall or corner
Shaking uncontrollably
Gripping something, knuckles going white
Stiff walking, the knees locking
Beads of sweat on the lip or forehead
Grabbing onto someone
Eyes appearing damp and overly bright
Stuttering and mispronouncing words, tremors in the voice
Jerky movements, squirming
Licking the lips, gulping down water
Sprinting or running
Sweeping a hand across the forehead to get rid of sweat
Gasping and expelling one’s breath as if pained
Uncontrollable whimpering
Pleading, talking to oneself
Flinching at noises

INTERNAL SENSATIONS:
An inability to speak
Shakiness in the limbs
Holding back a scream or cry
Heartbeat racing, nearly exploding
Dizziness, weakness in the legs and knees
A loosening of the bladder
Chest pain
Holding one’s breath, gulping down breaths to stay quiet
A stomach that feels rock hard
Hyper-sensitivity to touch and sound
Adrenaline spikes

MENTAL RESPONSES:
Wanting to flee or hide
The sensation of things moving too quickly to process
Images of what-could-be flashing through the mind
Flawed reasoning
Jumping to a course of action without thinking things through
A skewed sense of time

CUES OF ACUTE OR LONG TERM FEAR:
Uncontrollable trembling, fainting
Insomnia
Heart giving out
Panic attacks, phobias
Exhaustion
Depression
Substance abuse
Withdrawing from others
Tics (a repetitive grimace, a head twitch, talking to oneself)
Resistance to pain from rushing adrenaline

MAY ESCALATE TO:

CUES OF SUPPRESSED FEAR:
Keeping silent
Denying fear through diversion or topic change
Turning away from the cause of the fear
Attempting to keep one’s voice light
A watery smile that’s forced into place
Masking fear with a reactive emotion (anger or frustration)
False bravado
Over-indulgence in a habit (nail biting, lip biting, scratching the skin raw)
A joking tone, but the voice cracks

MAY DE-ESCALATE TO:

ASSOCIATED POWER VERBS:
Shake, quiver, stutter, chatter, gulp, quake, gasp, weep, moan, tremor, bristle, blanch, pale, whiten, clutch, scrabble, run, hide, sob, yelp, guard, shock, flinch, jerk, weaken, shudder, bolt, slip out, bury, cover, lurch, crouch, huddle, freeze, jolt, scream, moan