In First Kings 19:9+ we see Elijah distressed, maybe a bit angry, and even a little fearful. However, he doesn’t state these emotions when asked by God, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replies, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Do you sense Elijah’s emotions as he expresses his feelings to God?
After this there was a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But, God wasn’t in those things. He was in a gentle whisper. Isn’t it interesting that God could have spoken through the mighty things but chose to speak in a delicate way?
In this section of scripture, Elijah doesn’t say that he is frustrated or afraid and yet you get the sense of these emotions.
As writers we must show our characters’ emotions but shouldn’t name them. We don’t want to say that our character is sad or angry, we strive to show it. We show the downcast expression or the beet-red face. We use gestures and actions such as drooping shoulders and clenched fists.
Make a list of 10 emotions.
Circle two of the emotions you listed. Create a scene with two characters speaking with one another. Let one of your characters be feeling the first emotion you circled and the other character feeling the second one.
Now write the scene in which we can easily identify the emotions of each character but do not name the emotion. Use only their words, tone, expressions, and gestures.
There is an invaluable resource to help you identify the characteristics of various emotions: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book is arranged alphabetically by emotions such as anger, doubt, and relief. The writer can simply look up the emotion and find a listing of internal and external words and phrases that show that specific emotion.
Extended activity: How are you feeling today? Are you experiencing frustrations in your writing? Are you feeling joyful because you have reached some writing goals for the week? Follow Elijah’s lead and write out how you are feeling to God. Don’t name the emotions. Show God how you feel today.