“She was angry.”

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

Stronger and more vivid writing requires a variety of tools or models of expression. Here’s a partial catalogue of models, based on the example sentence, “She was angry.”

Showing versus telling. “She was angry” directly communicates information without appeal to any of the senses. An “appeal to the senses” can refer either to the reader’s or the character’s senses, including the character’s internal senses. Some possibilities:

  • Visual: She grew red in the face, clenched her fists, and bared her teeth.
  • Auditory: She yelled, “fuck you!”
  • Tactile: She slapped him so hard her hand stung.
  • Internal: She felt her muscles tense and she thought she might explode into violence.

Be more specific. This might involve intensifying the emotion, but that can also be avoided. Examples:

  • Intensify: She was in a murderous rage, hating him with all her might.
  • More specific: She was angry; not murderously angry, but ready to inflict verbal wounds.

Metaphor. These examples try to characterize the anger without going into actual behaviors; clearly, metaphor can be used to express behaviors also. Examples:

  • She exploded into tiny, bleeding tatters of rage.
  • Anger curled in her stomach like a snake.
  • Her anger was a dull curtain between them.

Repetition with variation. Here’s an example with comic intent:

  • She was angry. She burned with murderous rage like she had never felt before. She sat down and wrote an indignant note to the times.

Strip mining the thesaurus (or congeries).

She was angry, furious, raging, irate, and altogether pissed off.

Understatement.

  • She said, “I am not entirely calm at this moment.”

Altered point of view. While the POV of “She was angry” is not nailed down by that simple sentence, an alteration might be effective. Examples:

  • “Wow,” he thought. “She looks mad.”
  • The dog whined, sensing a disturbing change in his mistress.

“Subtle” hint.

  • The stream of smoke from her cigarette developed a slight turbulence.
  • She exhaled and shifted in her chair.
  • She eyed the sabre above the mantlepiece.

Author intrusion.

  • Anger is known to cause visible changes in human physiology. The woman grew red in the face.

Allusion or quotation.

  • She felt like Achilles toward this Hector.

Tinker. Change to a synonym, add a word, elaborate grammatically.

  • She was furious.
  • She was murderously angry.

[end]

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