How to Show Emotion on the Page: The Cheat Sheets

Feelings are hard, in both reality and writing. This isn’t a ground-breaking concept, but stay with me.

Characterization is heavily rooted in emotion. Physical traits and personal history can help mold a vivid depiction for a reader, but what really tells an audience about a story’s protagonist and counterparts is how individuals react to situations. Those reactions are portrayed through emotion.

See? I have a point.

Characterization is only one aspect of what makes emotional reaction so key to the creation of a good story. If you ask someone, “what makes a good book?” how the book made them feel is probably going to be embedded in the response you receive.  In order to achieve this connection, the feelings of a novel’s cast need to transfer from paper to the reader. When your protagonist cries, readers need to feel pain. When your antagonist triumphs, readers should have an overwhelming desire to punch the jerk in the face (or make out with said person, depending on your writing style. I lean toward the latter).

All this mumbo-jumbo above is great to know, but how do you achieve it? That’s a question with a mile long answer. There are books written on the subject (check out a few here.) I’ve read one or two, but  when it comes time to write I’m not going to dig out my copy of Emotion, Tension & Conflict and look up the best way to convey “She felt sad”.

Warning: “She felt sad” is the worst route to take. Avoid at all costs. Please.

This leads me to the purpose of this post.  I have a confession. I’m a cheater.

I don’t take the time to dive into another book while writing my own. I use cheat sheets. These sites below help pinpoint frequent mishaps writers make, and help spark ideas.

Cheat Sheet For Writing Emotion

This is a fantastic list of emotional actions. One of the best lists I’ve found.

37 Ways To Write About Anger

Spoiler alert! This one focuses on the infuriating side of things!  Still, a great resource for when your character’s are feeling furious.

The Wheel of Emotions

(I’ll just stick it here to make things simple.)wheel-of-emotions


100 Words For Facial Expressions

Because you can only use “She grinned mischievously” so many times. Or not at all. In fact, don’t use it, use this list instead.

Tips On Effectively Conveying Character Emotion

This article does an incredible job of demonstrating how to put all of the above charts and tips to use. Show versus tell in reality! Woohoo!

I hope these links help you as much as they’ve helped me. Feel free to other links in the comments below. In fact, I encourage it. Thanks for sticking with me through this surprisingly long post (it’s like I’m a writer or something).

Until next time,


Premise and Momentum


I want to share an exercise with you all that recently helped me better understand drama, momentum and stakes. I’m part of a workshop and we did this exercise in my last class. It really opened up my current work in progress. I hope it helps you guys as much as it helped me!


This is an exercise by Bill Johnson, it is NOT MINE! I simply want to share his wisdom. I’ve reworded a few things, but I take no credit. Here is a link to the full essay, which I highly encourage you all to read. Everything below is just a brief overview.

Each character needs to have their own stakes and they all need to be somehow connected in order to drive the story forward. How do you do that?

To create drama, the writer needs to make the reader care about what is going on. That is easier said than done. The best way to do that is to convey
1- What is at stake in the world of the story
2- What is at stake for the individual in the story
3- What is at stake in each individual scene
4- How the outcome of individual scenes and character goals move the story forward.

What’s at stake in the world of the story (the premise) needs to be connected to each character’s personal stakes. If there is drama that the character isn’t emotionally attached to, then the characters can come off as mechanical, acting only to advance the story. If a character doesn’t have forward momentum then they aren’t necessary, not matter how funny/sweet/ wonderful they are. They only interrupt forward movement.

How do you test this? EASY!

1- What is the premise of your story/ book?
2-What is at stake for each of your characters (even the minor ones!)
3- What is the main thing in the way of each character?
4- Locate one scene or character that does not advance the plot and cut them! Your story will open up!

48042-Book-NerdI cannot describe how great this exercise was. Surprisingly, the hardest part for each of us in the class was figuring out what our premise really was. How can you write a book if you don’t know exactly what  you are writing about? Writers tend to do that more often than you’d think, especially in the beginning. It is easy to think your premise is something it’s not. For example, I though my premise was ” Revenge on the bay guy” but after some digging I realized my premise is “Revenge takes more than it gives you”. That is a premise I can craft a meaningful novel around and build characters with.

Good luck guys, and keep writing!jessica grace kelleyt signature


#Pitchwars isn’t a contest, it’s an opportunity

I’m not an exceptionally experienced writer. I have one manuscript under my belt and two halvsies. But I’m fairly experienced when it comes to contests. I’ve entered a few.

In fact,  I’ve entered 12 writing contests in the past year. They’re usually run by the RWA but I’ve entered three that were on a worldwide level ( Myslexia, A Woman’s Write, and They have a few differences, but they all have one thing in common. There is a distinct winner.

“That’s how a contest works,” you say, and ready yourself to move on.


You don’t need to waste your time reading things you already understand.

BUT WAIT! I have a point, I swear!!!!

Guys, #Pitchwars isn’t that type of contest. Pitchwars is an opportunity. If you play your cards right, you will walk away with something beneficial, even if you don’t get picked by a mentor. That is always a win.

So, let’s list a few of the benefits of this contest, besides the ever- envied Mentor.

  1. A Beta Reader.
  2. A Critique Partner
  3. Query Edits
  5. The experience of rejection
  6. The experience of acceptance
  7. A measurement of how far you’re willing to go

Guys, this industry is rejection. It will only make you stronger.


Okay, that’s a little bit of stretch, but you get the idea.

As an author, you’re setting yourself up for failure. That’s part of the deal. I learned that lesson very quickly when I lost my first contest. I didn’t even make it to through the first round, and I got a nasty critique letter that didn’t sugar coat the truth. It was painful, but you know what? It was the best thing that ever happened to my writing. I will forever thank the judge who took the time to be brutally honest, and for adding that the reason she was so harsh was because she saw unstructured talent.

I took the advice and rewrote, and things started changing for me. My first final was elating, but the truth is my biggest win was that first loss. Without that failure, I would never have learned the value of a negative critique. It taught me to look at my writing with a critical eye; there is always room for improvement. It taught me to straighten up and deal with the tough stuff because no one is going to hand me a map that leads to greatness. If  I want this, I’m going to earn some scars, which is okay because they make my skin thicker.

When I entered #Pitchwars, I didn’t see it as a contest. Pitchwars was a giant vat of opportunity I could submerge my writing into if I was willing to get the pages of my manuscript wet. The ink might run, and some lines might be lost, but the pretty skeleton of the story would remain.

So I threw myself in. It’s a little deeper than  I anticipated and the water is rough, but there are plenty of fellow writers around me and we are swimming together.

I’ve found a critique partner or two, possibly three! I’ve had my query ripped up in the best way. New sets of eyes showed me flaws I could never see, and now I have the ability to patch up the issues. All in all, I’ve gotten better.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a win.

I hope you all find your win, too.

Keep writing,






I’m A Finalist!

This week was a pretty good week for me! I wanted to share my joy, and encourage others to try their hand at a few contests

Whenever I begin a new book, I enter my first draft into a couple RWA contests to see what I need to work on. It is such an eyeopening experience. I recently found out my novel,  Mercy Killers, received third place in the Daphne du Maurier award of excellence! The Daphne was a contest I really wanted to place in, so I am SO HAPPY!

this is the best

The Seductress had a pretty good week too. The manuscript received an honorable mention in the California Dreamin’ Hooker contest, and third place in the Romance Through the Ages contest! I also found out Seductress made the finalist round in the ff&p On The Far Side contest, which I am very happy to hear since that is a contest specifically designed for fantasy.  I was definitely doing a happy dance this week, guys. I’m so excited!

I have been blown away with the amount of support the RWA provides it’s members, as well as the feedback I have received from these competitions. I have learned so much, and I highly encourage you all to try your hand at a few of them. The comments alone are worth the entry fee. These contests played a big role in getting my first manuscript, Mercy Killers, to a whole new level. Hopefully I can polish these babies up and get them out to the world soon!


#Pitchwars Mentee Bio


Here I am, the Mentee Hopeful! PICK ME PLEASE!

I’m Jessica Grace Kelley, fantasy author of Mercy Killers, Seductress, and my WIP The Killing Crown. Let’s talk about why I am worth your investment.


Because honestly, isn’t that what #Pitchwars is about? Who has a great story, along with the drive and talent to achieve their dreams. Who is going to give it their all, smile at failure, and say, “Let’s try again.”  The publishing industry in hard. In order to make it, you have  to be driven, relentless, and willing to take constructive criticism.

I fully compass all of those things.



This is more than a hobby for me. This is what I want to do with my life.  I want to accomplish my goals, so when my two little boys are grown I can look them in the eye and say, “Give it everything you’ve got.” I want to set an example for them, and I have a story (or twelve) to tell. I live by these words-

“Potential is a pretty term that means nothing if it’s never fulfilled.”

I want to be a part of Pitch Wars because I KNOW a mentor will help me make it to the next level, and not only improve the manuscript I submit, but also improve my writing as a whole.  I will meet every deadline. I will listen with open ears. Change is good, and red lines on a manuscript means better things will come. I want to learn! TEACH ME!

A little bit about who I am as a writer

beautiful-beauty-and-the-beast-belle-book-favim-com-4377842My brand is simple. I’m a writer of YA and NA fantasy novels. My personality is a mix of bohemian style, hippie vibes, and southern charm. I love finding beauty in darkness, and my books tend to reflect that. I believe in reaching out to readers and writers alike, and embracing what we love … BOOKS!

I’m a fairly new writer, but I learn fast. My manuscripts have won the 2015 YA Authors.Me contest, the Fools for Love contest, and placed in several other national competitions. I’m involved in the writing community, and am a proud pro member of the RWA. I have established a platform through twitter, my blog ( hey! you’re here already!) facebook, and Instagram. I also have an author’s website, Feel free to check it out! In fact, I’d love it if you did.

A few random facts about me

  • 5d127ff847a61adc1ada734e4947fec9
    the pen is mightier than the sword. See the sword on the end of the quill?

    After I finished my first manuscript I had my first tattoo designed, which is, of course, author themed. (Here’s a picture>>>>>)  It turns out tattoos are addicting … you’ve been warned.

  • I will eat anything that’s chocolate. ANYTHING.
  • Wine makes chocolate better.
  • I am a total closet dork. My hubby and I fell in love in college while eating pickles and watching DragonballZ and Full Metal Alchemist.  I wanted to be Sailor Moon when I grew up, and I’m still pretty upset I can’t transform. Ariel and I are soul mates, and if you don’t like Olicity we will go to war.
  • Before I was an Author, I was a singer/ songwriter. I guess I never really stopped, because I have an entire concept album written for my first novel, and I’m working on songs to go with my new books as well.
  • I’m also an accountant. I love all nerd things!
  • I am a proud military spouse. Marrying a man in the military was something I swore I’d never do, but I’ve learned to never say never ( I was also never going to write a book, get a tattoo, or get a desk job.) I couldn’t be happier with him, he is my person, and the best father in the world. He’s also gorgeous. I married a G.I Joe.
  • I have a little boy who’s special needs, so I am a champion for diversity. His unique traits make him a joy, and he’s taught me to love the unexpected.

About my Manuscript


Attica is a Cage Mercy Killers is a dark  fantasy romance series set in a world meshing Victorian styles, Greek aristocracy and bohemian beauty.  The narrative is from revolving points of view, with one main protagonist encapsulating the majority of the tale. I’ve included a few character pictures for fun. I love this world!

jayce yaaay

And finally…

A Few of My Favorite Books

  • An Ember in the Ashes
  • The Shatter Me Series ( OMG WARNER)
  • The Winner’s Curse Series
  • The Kiss of Deception
  • These Broken Stars/ This Shattered World
  • Horde
  • Under the NeverSky series
  • Red Rising
  • the 5th Wave Series
  • The Selection Series
  • Defy Series
  • Paper Princess
  • Cruel Beauty / Crimson Bound
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • I’m also going to mention the Divergent series, because it had such an impact on me. I was so upset about the last book I tossed my Kindle across the room and told my hubby ” I could write a better ending than that!”  He smiled and said “Then do it.”  I started my first short story that night, called The Guardian. It is the Mercy Killers prologue. So, thanks Veronica Roth! You inspired me to write.


That’s me in a nut shell guys. Thank you for reading! If you are a fellow mentee hopeful, reach out to me! I believe in helping one another, so if you would like an extra set of eyes to read your pages, or simply a critique partner, contact me. If you are a mentor, thank you for reading this far (wow!)  and I hope you like what you see! Pick me! If I’m not your jam, that’s okay, after all, The Publishing Industry is Subjective.