I'm trying to find a very specific word for a very specific feeling, and have had zero luck other places on the Internet with finding even a reference to this. I'm hoping to invoke this particular emotion in a short story, the details of which I don't think are terribly important for the question itself.

It is something I have experienced before and, despite my lack of results, I'm sure others have as well.

It isn't excitement or anxiety, but it is something relatable...it's almost physical, like a sensation in the chest, most often, almost like a tightness or heaviness that sometimes almost seems to spread to the head as well...but it comes about when watching or listening or reading something fascinating, interesting, or something that grabs your attention in a very unique way and holds you and makes you feel...well, what I've said above is the best I can describe it.

In my own life I've often felt this when watching captivating speeches, or scenes that seem almost...intimate, not sexual, but like watching a person observe something closely and intently, investigating...or while reading something particularly compelling. Often when someone with a captivating, maybe soothing, voice explains something too.

It's very hard to describe, but I'm really hoping to emulate it through my writing in this piece...but I think to do so I need to know and understand what the feeling is. I hope you all can help! Thanks so much!

  • It sounds to me like the most apt single word for it is one that you used in your question: compelling.
    – levininja
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 16:52

3 Answers 3



In a sentence:

I was enthralled by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I couldn’t stop thinking about this play


Don Quixote was so enthralled by reading, that he was driven insane.

I’d say to avoid using other forms of the verb to enthrall, as they don’t sound natural, at least in the context of American literature.


It sounds to me like you're describing the phenomenon of being focused, entranced, enthralled, compelled, or captivated by something persuasive or compelling. I would probably focus on describing the phenomenon of feeling focused on one aspect to the exclusion of all other thoughts: our normal mental state is buzzing with different thoughts, and what you're describing is the state of feeling that one thing is so important that it excludes all else.

All definitions from Merriam Webster.


3b: a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding


2.2: to carry away with delight, wonder, or rapture


1: to hold spellbound


b: demanding attention


1: to influence and dominate by some special charm, art, or trait and with an irresistible appeal


1: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action

Regarding the physical phenomena you are describing, I think these are specific to the individual, not universal. (I personally have never felt those sensations in the chest you describe.) Regardless, it will be good for your narrative to show your character reacting as a specific person, not a generic person.

  • I think "spellbound," as used in your definition of enthrall, would be good too.
    – Kitkat
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 17:16
  • @Kitkat Yes, I looked at spellbound by unfortunately its definition was simply "held by or as if by a spell" so I thought it would be redundant to the definition of enthrall.
    – levininja
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 17:18

I think your story will be more profound if you describe this feeling in more words. Like you wrote , it might help the readers empathize more . If you write “ she/he was excited “ or something in one word it isn’t quite just as profound . Idk if it makes sense

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