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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Emotions: A-Z

Last week I wrote about emotions providing a landscape for characters to exist in and made a half-serious suggestion that we give finding all three-thousand emotions a red-hot go. But in an attempt to embrace some common sense I’m just going to explore a few in the next couple of blogs.

I like writing about the emotional life of my characters, and I think it stems from being a fairly ‘heart on sleeve’ kind of person. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to rein in my emotional self, apologising for crying at goodbyes and even hellos, pretending I have a cold when watching the news or suppressing the urge to express physical violence against those who hurt the people I care about, and even those I don’t know but deeply suspect I’d care about if I did. I must add I’m a total pacifist, so any talk of actual bodily harm is simply enacted in my head and not in real life. But if an enemy could read my mind…they would be scared. I’m still in training to have complete emotional control. My New Year’s resolution every year is to be more Zen. Still not there.

To this week’s first word. ANGUISH. It is one of those words that exudes its meaning even when one doesn’t know the definition. The mere sound of it lets you know that this is no lightweight in the feelings department. Definitions from psychology, philosophy and lexicography all point the same enormity of the experience. It is extreme unhappiness which is preceded by a tragedy or an event that has a profound effect on a person. Anguish is pain, deep sorrow, wretchedness and a terrible sense that it is insurmountable. In the instance of anguish it seems that this is all the world will be in that moment and forever more. Common sense should tell you that this is not permanent, one cannot exist in a state of constant anguish but sense doesn’t exist in the same space as anguish.

It should be used for big moments in the lives of characters. When they are defeated by loss or overcome by the hopelessness of situations. When their hearts are broken and their dreams shattered it is then that anguish appears. It should not be overused and certainly has no place being used lightly. One does not experience anguish when your football team loses, it is disappointing and misery making but it is not profound. (There is a small caveat on this if you happen to be a fan of a team that is significantly inconsistent and loses when all things point to a win; that can produce some form of anguish).

And what does anguish look like, feel like? Well sometimes it produces internal chaos of the heart and mind. It is a cold creeping dread where happiness is extracted from the world. It is a state where everything hurts; opening your eyes, a breath, a movement, an act of kindness…all feel unbearable. It can be an external manifestation of tortured human movement and sound. The guttural howling, the clawing at body and air, the ultimate collapse. The one in anguish remains untouched by kindness or reason, until they can take a breath outside the disorder and pandemonium of their pain. It can last a moment, or many moments but ultimately anguish must end. It makes room for sorrow, fear, depression, sadness. Because one cannot live in the belly of anguish. That character must move through and out of that state if you are to have a story. If we are to truly live, we must transcend the tragedies and find meaning in the suffering.

That’s all a bit of heavy work…so to finish I’ll give you a B word. I know you all know a few of those. But let's stick with mine.


Sounds like a disorder of some sort and perhaps in some contexts it might be. It is the overwhelming and sudden urge to kiss someone. Oh, romance or weirdness. You may use this one as you will. The word that is, the practice might land you in hot water!

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