So I am a new writer and I am working on a fantasy novel. One of the main characters is Nolan. He is a boy that was born on another planet but was sent to Earth as a baby. When he is 18, a person comes and brings him back. For this scene, I am having trouble describing his feeling in the third person. I want him to be angry and confused, but I am not sure how to describe it with words. I am also not sure what I am supposed to include in regards to emotion when writing in the 3rd person.

  • Changeling by Roger Zelazny is similar and might give you ideas.
    – EDL
    Jun 2, 2021 at 2:31
  • "I am also not sure what I am supposed to include in regards to emotion when writing in the 3rd person." Have you read any books written in the third person? Jun 2, 2021 at 3:58
  • There's actually an example of this in the Beta chat room, way up at the start. This link should work Jun 2, 2021 at 15:22

5 Answers 5


It's hackneyed advice, but show, don't tell. We are very good at inferring each other's emotions, so if your characters behave naturally, the reader will know what's going on.

As an exercise, try writing the scene with dialog alone. See how much you can convey by choice of words and tone. Then add in the minimum amount of action required and you will have a very honestly written scene, that is probably much more interesting to read than the most poetic description of an angry person you could come up with.

You will, of course have to embody your characters. Before you start writing, meditate a little on why you are going for angry and confused. Is he angry because he was snatched away from earth, where everything was going great for him, or because he now realizes why he always felt like such an outcast in his youth, and he realizes somebody is responsible for that. Is he just upset that people are meddling with his life. It's fair for him to be confused, it's a lot to take in, but it's actually a very simple concept. Is it perhaps rather that he understands what has been explained to him, but he is refusing to understand it. He is angrily holding on to the lies he was brought up on, so that it is impossible for him to understand the very simple fact of the matter that he is an alien.

Once you get a handle on exactly what he is angry about, why he is confused and how much or how little of that he understands himself, you should be able to work out what is natural for him to say. From that, any reader will pick up his mental states very easily.


Go into detail about what makes him angry and confused.

If he doesn't understand what is happening, that could be confusing; talk about his lack of understanding. If he keeps seeing things that don't make sense, or worse, sorta make sense but keep on doing things that jar him, describe them in detail, probably with contrasts to what he expects.

Likewise, exactly why is he angry? Is he specifically angry with the person from bring him here? For not explaining? For explaining when he doesn't care, he only wants to go home? Is all his confusion making him irritable so that he's angry about anything mildly annoying?


Try to include physical details. How do angry people look like when they're angry? Maybe they are shaking? maybe their blood is pumping and their face becomes red?

In addition, who is your 3rd-person narrator? Is it you or is it a character within the world that tells the story? If it's someone in the story, they can't know what goes on inside Nolan's mind (unless they are, in fact, omniscient). They can only describe Nolan from the outside.

Also, it would help to read fantasy stories written in the third-person to get a sense of how other writers do it. I especially recommend Brandon Sanderson. He's Stormlight Archive was not only enjoyable to read, but also taught me a lot about world building and how to describe character interactions.


There are so many examples of what you are trying to do in the literature. Let me cite the first one that came to my mind.

The little girl gave a cry of amazement and looked about her, her eyes growing bigger and bigger at the wonderful sights she saw.

The cyclone had set the house down very gently—for a cyclone—in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.


In your mind, you can imagine that there are three things you want to get across to your reader:

  1. Description of the scenery
  2. Character's feelings (I don't know your character Nolan so from now on, I'll refer to the character as Joe)
  3. The mechanics of how he got there

Those things are respectively "portrayal, character and events".

How these information are presented and which ones are emphasized in a single paragraph are up to your writing style.

I wrote a few example passages. Below them are a bunch of other tips. Keep in mind that I'm a very amateur writer as well. Read the passages to see what kind of writing feels fluid and what strains your eyes. Debate the tips with yourself and with others.


His stomach churned and his throat caught on fire with bile he couldn't spit out. He could feel his optic nerve bleeding into his skull, his skin slipping on his face, all of his insides plastered and his joints floating. Moving his body did not even cross his mind over the surreal, overwhelming, loathsome sensations. Suddenly, he wasn't feeling as nauseous as before. Awareness of his limbs came first, followed by the rest of his cognition. After seconds of peace, he noticed he was alright - completely so, physically and mentally alike. All of his pieces were set and he didn't think he suffered any brain damage. He was lying sideways on an impossibly smooth surface. It felt cold against his exposed ankles. He rotated himself facedown and took a moment to rest before forcing himself up, worsening the dull ache on his shoulders. The surface had shades of ebon, amarant and cosmic blue distemperately intermengling. The designs looked like compressed chords that splattered into tinsels. Joe couldn't see a pattern to them. Behind him was a scene of dawn, a fire belt and faraway planets orbiting a rose-colored star. The surface he was on curled in his view and Joe registered he was on a miniature planet.


The atmosphere could only be described as perturbing. A stranger was in their kitchen, sipping on a liquid in what Joe assumed was his own mug. His body size looked unusual for a human - he was elderly and had a slouched posture but even then, he was the tallest a healthy adult men could possibly be. His shoulders were also too wide and his fat torso looked too straight from front. Steps behind him was Joe's mother, she was leaning on the balcony. Her eyes landed on her son as soon as he entered through the kitchen door and at that very second, Joe read too many emotions in everything her beloved mother was standing in front of him with. Her eyes flashed with longing and sorrow, directed at him. Behind those layers were unadulterated despair. Her face was creasing in loathing. Her posture betrayed how weary she was. Her clothes were presentable enough but her hair was only half combed - this stranger must have arrived as she was about to leave for a regular day.

"Joe Placeholderson, am I correct?"


"I asked you a question young man. Oh, I apologize if my visit had been sudden. My name is Sage of The Plot Demand. You can call me Sage. Now, I'm assuming I found the correct Joe Placeholderson. Am I correct?"

His mother sniffed. The mundane act conveyed so much of her distaste with the man.

"What the fuck are you doing at our home? I've nothing to do with you. Leave."

Joe would've liked to glare daggers at him but he couldn't muster that much anger at a complete stranger. Seeing his mother's state, however, told him how unwelcome this man wan.

Sage shifted around, his eyes looked for a chair. When he couldn't find, his gaze directed towards the living room across the hallway. Joe followed his offer without a word if only because arguing would make him stay longer. He was really, really hating how this dumpsite of a man could dare to make himself at home in a place he could not be more unwelcome at while distressing the matriarch of the said home.

"To cut to the point, Chosen, my boy, you're from a different universe and I'm here to take you back to your home."

This time, he pulled off the menacing look.

He didn't open his mouth. He didn't want to amuse this man with a conversation if he could help it. At the same time, his brain was kicked into overdrive, processing the input as orderly and delicately as a clockwork.

His mother jerked back at his words. Which could only be a confirmation that his revelations were to be taken seriously.

"[A bunch of lore I don't feel like developing now.] This was the reason you've been sent to live in the muggle world this long. However, you're of age now. My job is to take you back to your home and prepare you on your destined road in life."

Joe despised him so much that he didn't cut his words with the thousands of questions he obviously had, he didn't want to hear him talk any more than strictly necessary. He stood impassively and filed away all the incomplete parts of the story he was just told that he needed to probe further into. Behind Sage, his mother wasn't quiet in her sobbing anymore. This was the confirmation that the story was true: That he was being taken away, into a world he had no connection to, every single goal he had and every single friend he made just rendered meaningless, his identity lost. He was being taken away by this tactless man, or damned creature as he was justified to call him now, no one had bothered to ask his opinion. Could he beg for time to tell his loved ones that he's not dead and they shouldn't look for him? Would the creature allow it? After being taken to a place where he has no way to rely on himself, would he stay in a grotty rattlebag of a place and be worked to exhaustion just because? How could he, after the years they're planning to keep him, ever return to reclaim all that is being stolen from him?

"So... No questions?"

"None. Not at all. When will we leave?"

"Well... I thought you might need time. You know, to process all these and say goodbyes. But try to hurry, alright?"

Joe did not feel even the slightest thankful for this too little, very late display of kindness. His mother erupted into hysterical bawling.


So... Some things you might be careful about are:

1-) General

  • Do not needlessly tax the reader. Be considerate of the grammar because an orderly writing is easier to process than a messy one.

  • Be neither too simplistic nor too pretentious in your vocabulary.

  • Don't frustrate the reader as they skim through your sentences but don't leave them with an underwhelming experience either. Have a dictionary by your side if you want to. Look for the most suiting word for the situation or the feeling you want to get across - that word will not always be the most posh one.

  • Do not needlessly stretch the writing. If one word is enough, leave it at that. Also, try to improve your vocabulary. Instead of writing "he was very angry that he was shaking a lot", write "he was seething". Similar effects but the latter is more effective

  • Modify the tone, level and lenght of the writing according to how you want the scene to be processed. Heavier moments can use more descriptive words while events that happen too fast for the pow character to ponder upon may be written in a shorther paragraph.

  • Try not to repeat words or grammar structures. Improve your vocabulary! Also, reread it after you finish a chapter to see where does your writing feels slack, underwhelming, repetitive, confusing, pointless or has a clear mistake.

2-) Portrayals

  • Your character is teleported into a very different world for the first time. Scenery portrayals are on the way. Put effort in them

  • You don't need to give the reader every single detail your mental image had. You should focus on keeping them in the world the reading experience dragged them into and ensuring that even though they have their own images, they're still able to follow your world. For example, imagine our characters from a slice of life series are having a conversation as the train takes them to their home county. I must know they're on a train, I prefer to know the general ambiance of the compartment and if the seats are comfortable. However, the story would function just well if I imagined any random interior photo I found on google so don't lose too much time there, get to the dialogue.

  • Don't info dump. Your character will discover this new universe as he navigates. Describe it through the actions. Don't leave us completely in the blind at the beginning just because you're afraid of this, however. I cannot be invested in the events if I have zero idea what's at stake and how any of it works. Also, while action is under the way, I will want to focus on the action - not develop the world. As to how you can reveal the lore, having a mentor type of character explain stuff is a very common way and it's ok if you use it yourself. If you're writing a genre that needs very broad worldbuilding, such as hard fantasy or science fiction, you may need to think of other methods of reveal to use on occasions.

3-) Character

  • Show, not tell. If Nolan is stringing curse after curse, I don't need to be told he's pissed. Or is his motivations can easily be inferred in light of the character development he had in story, I don't need them explained.

  • You don't need to develop the character in a single scene and they don't need to express the full range of their emotions at the spot. Nolan may stay calm and try to understand his surroundings when suddenly thrown into a new, foreign, dog eat dog world; and blow up on the Sage guy he hates in a later moment when he's less lost.

  • There are many different ways to feel about a situation and express one emotion. Nolan is angry, alright, but how? Is it an explosive rage? Is it colder loathing? Does he visibly quaver and hurt his teeth gritting it? Does he grow out of characteristically impassive? Does his resentment flare up and die down just as quickly or is it here to stay with us for a long while? Thinking further ahead in story, how does his own anger hurt Nolan if it does and what would it take for him to make his peace?


As I said, I'm an amateur writer myself so feel free to completely disagree with this answer.

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