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Emotion | From Rubbish to Publish


What is emotion?

According to the dictionary, emotion is (a) the affective aspect of consciousness, (b) a state of feeling, (c) a psychic and physical reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling and physiologically involving changes that prepare the body for immediate vigorous action.

In layman’s terms, it is a person’s reaction to internal or external stimulus.

 Simple examples of emotions expressed/implied in objects

(and what emotions they can evoke in the observer)

  • Wedding Photo:  romantic love, tenderness, happiness, discomfort, jealousy, bitterness, anger, guilt, sadness
  • Mother/Daughter Photo: tenderness, happiness, maternal love, daughter’s love, discomfort, sadness, regret, envy, bitterness
  • Dancing Bears Teapot: romantic love, tenderness, happiness, sensuality, jealousy, bitterness, sadness, envy
  • Seated Ladies: friendship, happiness, comfortable, discomfort, jealousy, bitterness, regret, sadness
  • Cowboy Pickle Clock: friendship, rowdiness, happiness, one-upmanship
  • Captiva Island Resort Photo: serenity, adventure, romance, envy, longing
  • Angela eating pizza photo: happiness, pleasure, maternal love, envy, longing

Musical sources for emotional expression

(and what emotions they can evoke in the writer)

  • Modern country: romantic love, tenderness, sensuality, playfulness, despair, jealousy, bitterness, anger, sadness
  • Easy listening: serenity
  • Reggae: fun, playfulness, energy
  • Hard rock: energy, intensity, anger, bitterness

Showing emotion in writing

Common questions or comments:

  • Where’s the emotion?
  • Dig deeper, let the reader see and feel the emotion.
  • Let the reader feel what the character felt.

Simple tips for showing emotion:

  • Build the emotional feeling as the scene unfolds.
  • Use the viewpoint of the character that has the biggest emotional stake in the scene.
  • Use body movements to convey emotion (show don’t tell).
  • Make the reader laugh and cry; be angry and determined, etc.
  • Make the emotions real, stay away from clichés as much as possible.
  • Give your main characters emotional intelligence, save the crazy and unbalanced emotions for secondary characters.
  • Know your characters emotional buttons, how far you can push them, and what is their breaking point.


  • What it is: The spark of the relationship, the awareness between the hero and the heroine from first sight to the last page.
  • Sensuality is more important than sex. It is mental and leads to sex. In a romance novel, it must be included in nearly every thought and deed.
  • It’s what the romantic characters want to do. It’s their secret desire to be touched and loved by the other. They don’t necessarily say it or act on it, but they think about it a lot.
  • It’s the way he protects here, or the way she takes care of him and his needs.
  • It’s how he looks all bloody after a battle, how exhausted after a rough day, or how she looks in a rainstorm.
  • It’s the way their eyes light up at the mere sight of each other.

Simple Body Communication

(Borrowed from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Art of Seduction by Janet O’Neal)

I’m Interested                                                             Go or Stay Away

Lean forward                                                              Lean away

Smile                                                                           Frown, scowl, or look bored

Make eye contact                                                        Look everywhere else

Hands relaxed and empty                                           Clenched fists or clutched item

Palms out                                                                    Knuckles out

Feet flat on floor                                                         Ankles crossed and locked

Legs look relaxed                                                        Knees pressed tightly together

Animated responses                                                    Impassive responses (or none)

Fiddling sensually with a prop                                    Put prop aside brusquely

Subtle touching                                                           No physical contact


Women’s Basic Emotional Needs

(Borrowed from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Art of Seduction by Janet O’Neal)

Emotional Security

  • Be found more attractive than any other woman to her intimate partner
  • Feel like he is glad to be with her
  • Believe he will respect the confidentiality of their relationship
  • Feel that he will be there to hold her, stroke her, or comfort her when she is down

Affection and Romance

  • Need touch in a caring and tender way, for sensual pleasure, and addition to emotional security
  • Doses of romance (daily would be nice)

 Undivided Attention

  • Times when he needs to focus completely on her
  • Helps to let her know that her happiness and well-being are high priorities to her partner

To Be Listened to

  • Women often talk about their problems just to unload, not necessarily seeking advice
  • Her partner should listen and not interrupt her
  • Her partner should not offer advice unless she specifically asks for it


Men’s Basic Emotional Needs

Acceptance of him

  • Accept him the way he is and not want to change him
  • Her not accepting him can make him self-conscious or resentful, or both

Sexual Fulfillment

  • Needs to have his desires satisfied
  • Needs to know he satisfies his partner

To be Admired, Respected, Appreciated

  • Needs to know you like and respect who he is
  • Needs to know you’re as proud of him as he is of his partner
  • Needs to know through words and actions that his partner appreciates his efforts to please her

Companion and Confidante

  • Needs his partner to be his intimate friend as well as his sexual partner
  • Needs someone to have fun with outside of the bedroom, share some of his recreational needs and outside interests
  • Needs to know you’re not spilling the details of your intimate encounters to someone else

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.
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