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I'm trying to write a stressful situation for a character (specifically she's about to be injured) and I'm trying to convey her terror at the situation.

My usual trick is to use short snappy sentences and shut off the analytical side of her mind and only focus on what she can see and hear but I'm not very happy.

What techniques can I use to express her terror of her impending injury to the reader?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

In terms of the content you're writing (as opposed to techniques like staccato sentences), a good starting point (or a way to reinforce your existing prose) might be doing some research into the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety disorders.

Symptoms like a pounding heart, involuntary shaking, profuse sweating, a loss of breath, nausea, dizziness, and fleeting shivers all paint a physiologically accurate picture of someone going through a terrifying trauma. On top of that, you get the added bonus of a reader being able to relate to these symptoms on their own (everyone's had shivers or shakes, right?), but rarely all at once. If you can effectively put the character's terror into feelings your reader can feel and empathize with, they'll be just as terrified.

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The change in pace/tone can also play a significant role in communicating a mood. E.g., briefly building tension, then relieving, building tension less briefly and relieving, and finally building tension with release via the bad event. Foreshadowing (including presenting why the situation would be terrifying to the character) can also increase the impact. In addition to hindering analytical thought, fear can also induce clumsiness in thought/speech and action and mistakes made from such clumsiness can amplify the unease. – Paul A. Clayton Jul 28 '14 at 19:34

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