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

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

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