Skip to main content

All the Feels

It’s typical in stories and manuscripts to use variations on the verb “to feel” to express emotion: He felt mad. I feel scared. But there are much better ways to describe a character's emotional state. Try it with one of these "feeling" prompts. Write a scene based on one of the phrases, allowing the character to express the emotion without using the word feel or felt.

This writing prompt originally appeared in Writer's Digest magazine. Subscribe to discover exercises and prompts in the back of each issue.

Image placeholder title

It’s typical in stories and manuscripts to use variations on the verb “to feel” to express emotion: He felt mad. I feel scared. While these practical expressions of feelings are not necessarily bad, you can invite your readers more deeply into the experiences of your characters by demonstrating those feelings.

Try it with one of these "feeling" prompts. Write a scene based on one of the phrases, allowing the character to express the emotion without using the word feel or felt. Or if you'd like, comb through one of your own pieces looking for the words feel or felt and expand on that feeling with more depth. (Hint: Avoid thoughts; stick to action, dialogue and images.)

  • He felt sad to hear the news.
  • She felt angry when he yelled at her.
  • I had never felt so embarrassed before.
  • His expression made her feel afraid.
  • Her words inspired a feeling of dread.
  • I’d never feel joy again.
  • You always feel sick.
  • We never felt loved.

Post your response in the comments below in 500 words or fewer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.