How to show nervousness in a character

Dan Alatorre

Things you can see a character do when they are nervous (as in, show don’t tell).

1. Make a list and add them to your story

2. Keep the list handy when you need to replace an overused word or phrase.

It make crutch word removal slightly less mind-numbing.

Swallow hard

Sweat (a bead of sweat rolled down her neck)

Traveling fingers

Tapping toes

Fidgeting with your clothing

Knees knocking

Shift from one foot to the other

Tug at your collar

Sweat appears on your armpits


Wet their pants

Hands are shaking

Glance around


Use words like um, uh

Breathe hard

Inhale to calm your nerves



Eyes go wide

Jaw/mouth hangs open

Look down

Look away

Avoid eye contact

Stare at the floor

Stare at the ceiling or wall

Purse your lips

Put a finger to your lip

Chew your lip

Possibly grit your teeth

Create a nervous habit like they rub their fingers together and have the same person do it when they are nervous

Run your hand through your hair

Wipe their hand across their face/mouth


Others (can’t see these but in a character’s POV they feel them)

Heart raced

Heart pounded

pulse throbbed in her ears

gut aches

stomach jolts



Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

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