When one of your characters is going through something, how do you communicate that to your readers?
Think of a scene in one of your own stories where the protagonist is in a foul mood.
Maybe the other characters picked that up quickly enough, but did your reader?
When that magic happens, it’s all in the words you use — and the ones you leave out.
When it comes to that first group, we’ve got a negative moods list you might like.
How Do You Describe Negative Feelings for Your Characters?
As a writer, you have more than one way to reveal negative feelings and moods in one of your characters:
- Character articulates their own feelings in dialogue or self-talk.
- Character behaves in a way that nonverbally communicates their feelings.
- Another character describes the character’s feelings.
- Setting and reactions from other players reflect the character’s feelings.
- The narrator offers clues to the character’s feelings and inclinations.
The most effective way to communicate a character’s feelings is to make them felt by the reader — through atmospheric details and character behavior.
If you rely on your character to spell out their feelings for the reader, it won’t have the same power.
51 Negative Mood Words to Use for Your Writing
Look through the following mood list to find the words best suited to your character and scene. It’s fine if you end up changing your chosen words during edits.
The more familiar you become with your story and its characters, the better your sense of the right words to use. Enjoy the process.
1. Angry / Enraged / Furious / Livid / Irate — Feeling or showing annoyance, hostility, or rage
2. Antagonistic / Hostile — Unfriendly even to the point of aggression (or passive-aggression)
3. Anxious / Unsettled / Apprehensive / Worried — Feeling that something bad is about to happen or is inevitable
4. Apathetic / Indifferent / Detached — Feeling or showing no interest or concern
5. Betrayed — Exposed to danger as a result of misplaced and violated trust
6. Bored / Disenchanted / Weary — Lacking interest in or energy for something
7. Cranky / Grumpy / Cantankerous — Ill-tempered, irritable, or tetchy
8. Confused / Perplexed / Bewildered — Unable to think or perceive clearly
9. Depressed / Despondent — In a state of general unhappiness, imbalance, and inability to find joy in people or experiences
10. Despair / Hopelessness — Surrendering or lacking hope or a reason to keep going
11. Embarrassed / Mortified / Humiliated — Feeling intensely self-conscious and distressed over what others might think
12. Evil / Insidious / Malicious / Malevolent — Profoundly immoral and acting with ill will or the desire to do harm
13. Fearful / Afraid / Scared — Feeling or showing fear, trepidation, or anxiety
14. Filthy / Dirty / Muddy — In need of a good cleaning
15. Freakish / Abnormal / Weird / Alien — Standing out in a way society doesn’t like
16. Frustrated — Feeling upset over an inability to change or achieve something
17. Guilty / Guilt-ridden / At Fault— Feeling or showing culpability for something
18. Garbage / Trash / Junk — Discarded by someone or by society in general as refuse
19. Heartbroken / Crestfallen — Feeling let down or crushed by disappointment
20. Hurt / Pain / Anguish — Feeling or showing physical, mental, or emotional wounds.
21. Inadequate / Insufficient — Lacking in something or in some way; not enough
22. Insecure / Uncertain / Doubtful — Lacking in certainty or confidence in yourself or in someone else’s regard for you
23. Insulted / Disrespected — Feeling attacked by another person’s abusive or thoughtless words or behavior
24. Irritated / Irritable — Easily frustrated or bothered by another’s words or behavior
25. Jealous / Covetous / Envious / Resentful — Wanting someone else’s advantages and resenting them for what they have that you don’t
26. Lazy / Shiftless / Indolent — Lacking the will to do what is necessary
27. Lonely / Lonesome — Feeling a need for good company or companionship
28. Lost / Homeless / Adrift — Lacking a home or knowledge of how to get there.
29. Manipulated / Deceived / Tricked — Led astray by someone intent on using you for their own purpose
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30. Melancholic / Somber / Morose — Expressing or feeling pensive sadness and low spirits
31. Nasty / Gross / Disgusting — Highly offensive or unpleasant to the senses
32. Neglected / Abandoned / Forsaken — Suffering a lack of proper care or attention; forgotten
33. Numb / Unfeeling / Desensitized — Acclimated to the point of feeling nothing
34. Oppressed /Subjugated — Controlled by someone else and treated unjustly
35. Outcast / Expelled / Unwanted / Excluded— Rejected and pushed out by society or by a social group
36. Powerless / Weak / Helpless — Unable to resist another’s power or influence
37. Pessimistic / Negative — Tending to see the worst in people or things
38. Regretful / Remorseful — Feeling or showing regret over past words or actions
39. Resentful / Bitter — Holding someone’s past offenses against them
40. Restless / Fidgety / Jittery — Unable to calm down; feeling “wired” or “keyed up”
41. Sad / Sorrowful / Grieving — Feeling or showing grief or emotional pain
42. Sarcastic / Sardonic — Using irony to ridicule or show contempt; cynical
43. Stressed / Tense / On Edge — Feeling overwhelmed or overtaxed; unable to relax
44. Sickened / Queasy — Feeling disgusted, nauseated, or appalled by something
45. Terrified / Petrified / Paralyzed — Feeling or showing intense or all-consuming fear
46. Timid / Shy / Timorous — Easily cowed or intimidated into silence or inaction
47. Tormented / Wretched — Feeling or showing deep physical or mental pain or suffering
48. Traumatized / Scarred — Feeling deeply marked or damaged by an experience
49. Vengeful / Unforgiving / Absolutist — Seeking to harm someone in retaliation for a past offense or injury
50. Vulnerable / Weakened / Susceptible — Left open to a physical or emotional attack
51. Worn / Worn out — Tired or exhausted; used up; no longer of any use; spent
Did you find the negative mood word you were looking for?
Now that you’ve looked through the list of negative mood words, which ones stood out for you? Which will probably find a place in your current work in progress?
Make a list of your own with the words that called out to you. Words have a way of doing that, and there’s always a reason. The words that hit home for you today may be different a year from now.
As an exercise, try freewriting with a few of these words today to see how they’ll fit into your story.