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I want to show my young adult main character, as being very enthusiastic and excitable about her interests, mainly I want her to make a big deal about wanting to wear her mother's ceremonial (but highly functional) armour. She sort of hero-worships her mother (who wore the armour a long time ago), who uses her excitement about the armour as a 'carrot' early on in the story.

My issue is that personally I don't tend to show my excitement externally, but I do tell people! I'll say "I cannot for Thursday!" or "I'm so excited for our next game together!!" If I ever want to show it myself, it's more or less a conscious choice, otherwise I look blank/passive. I'd rather not have to write "Main Character felt excited" or "'I'm excited', said Main Character".

My strongest idea of what an excited person looks like somes from my nieces and nephews who are all between 5 and 10, where as I want my main character to seem like she has the maturity of a 16-20 year old. When my nephews and nieces express excitement they jump up and down, scream and shout and repeat phrases over and over:

PLEASE! Please, please please, PLEASE Khalu! Can I have a piggyback! Please?!

Having re-read some of my exploration writing (writing without a fixed outline or plan) I've noticed because I was subconsciously basing her excited behaviour on my nephews and nieces — she comes across as extremely childlike, because that's my best grasp of what being outwardly excited is. I don't want that. I feel like this is the thing making her seem much younger than she is, and I want her excitement to be believable.

A complicating factor is that this character is short (due to being a 'fantasy Dwarf' she's 4'1"), fat (she's a round 'baby' face), and she knows she can use that as well as put on an innocent face/show puppy eyes so she can deliberately get away with figurative murder. As well as this, she's fairly naive/irresponsible anyway means I'm portraying her as even more childlike than if it was just her excitement.

As an example of this, at one point she eats some food her mother made for somebody else, but she weasels her way out of it by just exclaiming to her mother (this isn't the exact text - I can't get to it right now):

"Oh no mamma, your bread just vanished!" Fin said, hoping her mother would play along "And why would that be, young lady?" "...because it was too tasty?" she ventured, hopeful her mother wouldn't be too mad "Oh, then do not worry, I'll make up another batch!" her mother replied dottingly

Later, she gets overcharged by a merchant who wants three more coins:

Fin dropped the three extra coins into the merchant's hands, and stared up at him with artificially forlorn eyes - like parting with the money was the hardest thing in the world. She held her fake sorrowful expression for a heartbeat longer than she thought was safe.
"I'll let you off this time," he said, ruefully passing the coins back
Still got it, Fin thought to herself.

When she gets excited, I've written her as 'bouncing up and down' and her 'eyes watering' with excitement, and saying things like "Really Pabbi? You'll help me put the armour on? Thank you, thank you, thank you!" (n.b. 'Pabbi' is what she calls her dad)

How can I show she's extremely excited about stuff, without making her come across as a child - especially when other parts of her personality are quite childlike and immature?

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  • Your character can throw a tantrum.
    – Alexander
    May 19 at 15:45
  • @Alexander they can... but do people do that when they're excited? May 19 at 16:21
  • you wanted a childish reaction? ;)
    – Alexander
    May 19 at 17:57
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    Maybe you can add a veneer of constraint to everything? Instead of bouncing up and down with excitement, it's just trembling. Instead of screaming, she's restraining the scream. Basically, the inner child tries to do everything an excited child does, but the adult veneer tries to hold it back, and filter/channel it in a way that's acceptable for an adult. (And failure is always an option; followed by some attempt at recovering composure.)
    – towr
    May 20 at 5:54
  • @towr that's a fantastic idea. May 20 at 9:31

1 Answer 1

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There is some overlap, but excited adults do not beg or excessively thank somebody, and adults are generally not as emotionally expressive as children.

When adults are excited, they are in a good mood, they smile more, they laugh more easily. Everybody is a hale fellow well met. Minor inconveniences or accidents are blown off; presuming these are trivial compared to the coming boon. It's a great day! Because they are already living in their imagination of their future boon. Their mind is preoccupied with their good fortune.

You can see this on flights TO Las Vegas (adults anticipating all the fun they will have) vs. flights FROM Las Vegas (most are coming home poorer than they arrived, and may have had fun but they are no longer anticipating having fun).

Excited adults may be more physically expressive, but any physical reactions are muted. A high five. A fist pump. It would take a life-changing level of excitement for them to physically jump up and down, like winning the lottery. Or winning Gold in the Olympics.

And unlike a child, they don't have any bosses. Nobody to ask permission from, nobody that is going to stop them, etc. Your character doesn't need help putting on the armor; as an adult she isn't weak or dumb.

You will see excited adults on TV or film going to a party, or fun event. Graduating high school or college. About to get married. Going on a date.

They are bright-eyed, smiling, attentive, perhaps joking. Something fun is about to happen, and they can't wait. That occupies their mind, they don't want to think or talk about anything else, really. They may be dismissive of everyday chores; "We'll do that tomorrow." Worry is for another day.

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    This is a great answer, but a lot of what you described sounds a lot more like being happy than excited? Also, a lot of heavy armour needs one if not two people to put on them, it's heavy and complicated. I'll read and reread your descriptions and see if it sparks anything. May 19 at 21:21
  • For me, at least, "happy" is closer to "contented" than "excited". I'm happy with my life, I'm happy with my job, I'm happy with my car. That doesn't mean I cannot wait to get to work. "Happy" is more of a "I'm not looking for something better" situation. "Excited" is a temporary more heightened state of "happiness", like "I can't believe my luck". I can't stop thinking about it; all thoughts keep returning to the think that excites me. Unlike happiness, being excited about an upcoming event is compulsively anticipatory; until it has happened, then it fades to a more general "happiness".
    – Amadeus
    May 20 at 9:23
  • Unlike happiness, being excited about an upcoming event is compulsively anticipatory; until it has happened, then it fades to a more general "happiness". I think part of my issue is that I'm conflating excited with other emotions. Looking as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… has helped, especially the dyads to break down the more nuanced emotions. I might make that it's own answer at some point. May 20 at 11:23

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