Affective Writing

That’s right. Affective, not effective, writing. This article is about how words make readers feel certain emotions. Sneak these words in whenever you can, sprinkle them onto the pages and watch their magic unfold.

Word scores: Valence, arousal and dominance

Valence = how happy or sad the reader feels having read the word. Low = sad, high = happy. Valence is highly correlated with image-ability.

Arousal = how tense or relaxed it makes the reader feel. low = relaxing, high = tens. Arousal is highly correlated with concreteness of words.

Dominance = how helpless or in control it makes the reader feel. Low = helpless, high = in control.

Word scores per emotion

A writer can use these effects to his advance. Pick the right words to make the reader feel exactly what you need him to feel to truly experience the story alongside your POV character.

Sadness = low valence, low arousal, low dominance
Anger = low valence, high arousal, medium dominance
Fear = low valence, high arousal, low dominance
Disgust = low valence, medium arousal, medium dominance
Joy = high valence, medium arousal, high dominance
Surprise = high valence, high arousal, medium dominance

Word scores per sense

Pain = low valence, high arousal, medium dominance
Smell = high valence, medium arousal, low dominance
colour = high valence, low arousal, medium dominance
Taste = high valence, low arousal, medium dominance
Sound = low valence, high arousal, medium dominance
Grasp = medium valence, low arousal, high dominance
Motion = medium valence, high arousal, low dominance

Combining the emotion and sensory words

Imagine your protagonist, let’s call him John, starts out rather helpless in a scene, eventually regains himself and struggles his way out of trouble.
John woke up, tied up to a tree. In this stage, you want to convey a sense of helplessness and fear so you use words that score low on dominance and low on valence. You avoid use of grasping-verbs (high dominance) in this stage. Once he regained his wits, it’s time to give the reader a sense of hope again by having John grab a knife and cut himself free.

Affective Word Lists

Sadness = low valence, low arousal, low dominance

coma
glaucoma
desolate
colic
frail
anemic
gloomy
pudgy
mousy
nothingness
unsuccessful
widower
bloated
stalemate
morgue
sham
geezer
gurney
inferiority
defeatist
tawdry
comatose
inability
bottom
lame
clammy
penal
orphan
fatty
discouraged
unreachable

Anger = low valence, high arousal, medium dominance

fatal
zombie
threat
kill
laceration
mafia
heartbroken
phobia
executioner
grenade
spider
gunfire
ghetto
contamination
king snake
gruesome
perverted
ferocious
conundrum
frostbite
mundane
reroute
orphanage
woozy
catatonic
pathological
tarantula
agonizing
numb
oaf
humid
archdiocese
pit
incoherent
downer
fatigue
forsake
scar
emptiness
insanity
prude
sewer
arterial
widow
panicky
diaper
urn
rage
innards
extradition
mute
lard
dredge
dopey
disdain
ineffectual
musty
venomous
nappy
dud
pious
subservient
attacker
inaudible
gassy
stagnant
lonesome
suppression
morn
inconsistent
trifling
craziness
alimony
bugger
sickle
elimination
misconception
drool
whaling
wilt
repressed
shack
clump
draught
blockade
withhold
warpath
inconsequential
flea
edema
killer
custodian
limp
prolong
dismissive
bureaucrat
pasty
slur
legislature
wart
residue
slop
scream
isolation
mar
oedipal
wimp
monotonous
weary
prig
dust
aggressor
subdued
recluse
clod
scare
nameless
nostril
disconnect
sissy
broadside
fatten
dung
stale
listless
chase
hinder
timid
hostility
gun
dull
sect
tiresome
doormat
liar
orthodox
smug
mope
breach
argue
drab
gray
decompression
sinus
reschedule
flop
slouch
outrage
flabby
ploy
flaccid
wino
philistine
mono
muted
refusal
conceited
shotgun
saggy
laziness
flunky
dent
screamer
dismal
splint
fess
boredom
seclusion
evasive
slack
drain
slutty
baldy
hairy
provoke
hesitant
mould
telethon
ant
malnutrition
cheapskate
rotor
hoarse
shutdown
incubator
gang
rife
decaf
redundancy
lack
darn
user
ashtray
bypass
overlap
abstinence
scoff
patronize
bland
lazy
childless
celibacy
shallow
cholesterol
toenail
subdue
boring
celibate
policy

Fear = low valence, high arousal, low dominance

earthquake
rape
asphyxiation
motherfucker
dangerous
diarrhea
terrorism
quake
murderer
gunpoint
tornado
hijacker
murderous
nigger
plague
bullshit
invasion
tragedy
arrest
persecution
slaughterhouse
rabid
die
massacre
kidnapper
schizophrenia
attack
bombing
arsonist
shipwreck
assault

Disgust = low valence, medium arousal, medium dominance

invader
injection
incriminating
nosebleed
dickhead
dreaded
jittery
backfire
illicit
fuss
impossible
forget
hitchhiker
bile
staph
bane
allergy
sellout
lisp
demonic
psychosis
shrill
murderess
bubonic
asylum
psychopath
laughingstock
restrict
toothless
disparage
carelessness
senate
thug
sentencing
incest
termite
feeble
prison
headless
unrest
unpleasant
lawlessness
rot
muzzle
asthma
nitwit
mandatory
damnation
distraught
maggot
frightful
AIDS
pus
heartbreaking
incessant
dizzy
discomfort
anemia
ineffective
stooge
unforgivable
python
belligerent
bad
insecurity
cocaine
salmonella
scrutiny
lawyer
entrapment
cringe
slaughter
rob
traumatic
hooligan
cockroach
hysterectomy
unwanted
forbidding
typhoid
loathsome
dandruff
blockage
overweight
bureaucracy
harass
heartbreak
fearsome
abusive
petrified
unappreciated
insidious
expulsion
croak
uncertain
cage
nicotine
appendectomy
frantic
bogus
repulsive
twitchy
serpent
seizure
omen
segregation
toll
formaldehyde
clueless
inconvenience
pickpocket
bleeder
evil
injury
bacterial
uncooperative
irate
headstone
sprain
wicked
cult
stalk
boa
hardship
fungus
hag
scrawny
loneliness
explosion
rudeness
contagion
angst
slander
viral
accusation
strangle
hoodlum
indecisive
breakdown
insecure
dread
ejection
careless
squabble
relapse
disadvantage
tick
sloppy
faggot
corruption
deafening
immobile
wheeze
danger
conspiracy
inhuman
sabotage
despairing
unprofessional
wound
unsure
disown
downfall
cowardice
blunder
mourning
inexperienced
disgruntled
bureaucratic
violent
jeopardize
bitch
scapegoat
cesspool
germ
burdened
brimstone
lecherous
flaky
barbarian
destroyer
horrid
struggle
treason
embarrassed
leakage
heroin
manipulative
probation
degeneration
defective
congressman
substandard
unavailable
impossibility
dyke
mediocrity
horrendous
audit
uncomfortable
dungeon
thorny
discontent
eviction
glutton
nauseating
humidity
sanitarium
derogatory
fatality
neglect
bogeyman
misleading
corrupt
gunshot
scary
haphazard
disrespectful
futility
infect
penalty
taker
barren
exorcism
deployment
debt
disloyalty
dishonorable
minefield
claustrophobia
unhappy
barf
drug dealing
inadequate
alienate
dependency
clot
inaccurate
dummy
discourage
decline
breakup
frustrating
incomprehensible
soulless
coffin
expiration
whiplash
deadly
hurt
grave
forlorn
unspeakable
deport
discrepancy
poisoning
collapse
choke
insane
unscheduled
tramp
scam
mortgage
ruination
unrequited
concussion
controversy
incriminate
bloody
herpes
hypochondriac
abrupt
unprepared
unstable
bleed
surgical
bogey
vulnerability
complaint
pointless
undesirable
snub
madman
snowstorm
broken
uninvited
abysmal
crisis
irritating
impotence
operation
ridiculous
destruction
arson
judge
difficult
homeless
trap
godforsaken
bruise
tiring
black snake
feverish
tremble
embezzler
judgmental
jailer
prejudiced
graveyard
inconvenient
dishonor
nuisance
pillage
turd
negligence
weakling
wretched
unanswered
stepfather
exorcist
abomination
lovesick
maniac
wasp
sickening
infection
misery
rude
impending
shaky
expire
stinker
sorrow
punish
delusional
deception
starvation
allergic
prejudice
outcast
paranoid
oppressed
weakness
stereotype
meathead
gout
douche
culprit
cirrhosis
foe
deformity
junkie
crook
uneasy
sleaze
cemetery
unwell
unattended
inexcusable
fanatical
hornet
crucifixion
painful
vile
sergeant
mania
complication
vagabond
misunderstanding
troubled
icky
gangland
fall
slum
confine
nonexistent
fussy
wail
devil
summons
desecration
endangerment
centipede
goblin
addiction
pothead
Pope
perversion
frustrated
cowardly
columbine
lost
deteriorate
stress
untrained
sickly
unaware
legislation
weepy
snore
monstrous
infidelity
creeper
betray
envious
miserable
itch
deceptive
conflicting
swindler
predator
imbalance
offender
ugly
distortion
undertaker
citation
bloat
undetermined
embarrassing
overheated
intolerance
kamikaze
defeat
manslaughter
scandal
gunman
burglar
mosquito
fascist
surrender
greasy
illiterate
druggist
ignorance
imposition
obligatory
deficient
furious
sniper
jealousy
trial
brutality
tombstone
fiendish
proctologist
torpedo
depravity
bummer
deadbeat
disastrous
sewage
decomposition
ruse
slut
mayhem
wreckage
disruption
burn
contagious
fiend
gash
pompous
charred
unsatisfied
foolish
quicksand
distress
erosion
raid
eerie
scalding
rejection
irresponsible
disappearance
prostitute
delusion
profane
snotty
jail
hectic
unrealistic
depressed
faceless
mortuary
swarm
robber
squealer
venom
snatcher
satanic
crappy
resistance
intrude
vengeful
distasteful
hideous
woe
slobber
blight
sore
slag
vagrant
darkened
cartel
inbred
bullet
rattlesnake
theft
hospital
overpriced
nervousness
interrupt
louse
bomber
blood
brutal
court
lawless
gossip
sourpuss
harm
revolting
disrespect
impolite
misdemeanor
confusing
ghastly
fright
suspicious
defenseless
cardiac
discriminating
endanger
dropout
impatient
con
loathing
collide
idiocy
abscess
spam
wheelchair
impotent
absinthe
wetback
dimwit
horrifying
homicidal
torment
shithead
allegation
ambush
devastating
wartime
havoc
drinker
insult
humiliate
abnormality
evict
nag
loveless
melancholy
incomplete
drunkenness
stressful
straitjacket
bereavement
blackmail
nasty
noose
desperation
assassination
obsessive
combat
agony
buffoon
poisonous
argumentative
smelly
gunplay
shriek
fatso
accuse
fugitive
blinding
hatred
susceptible
unsafe
expendable
hellfire
grisly
bedpan
antagonize
discharge
abyss
peddler
disoriented
ex
greedy
deplorable
angina
unqualified
poor
epileptic
maim
inflation
opposition
pessimistic
greed
intimidating
mandate
ache
uncouth
crypt
indecision
phlegm
racial
bill
bail
fat
rut
sordid
atrophy
outdated
unfair
separation
silencer
wasteful
dependence
pathological
nervous
divorce
fault
withering
stupid
insubordination
ruthless
turmoil
stalker
narcissist
skunk
harsh
vengeance
pester
homophobic
mobster
bloodshot
unscrupulous
slime
deportation
headache
conceit
scarce
monarchy
repugnant
disable
pit
alarming
battlefield
severe
resentment
harassment
crackpot
incision
disorderly
denial
succubus
despair
detour
scorn
pigsty
drunken
fraught
glucose
embolism
eulogy
killjoy
stub
hepatitis
unsuspecting
crazed
radiation
bulimic
rodent
laryngitis
worrying
rancid
dissociative
ignorant
filth
disappoint
gloom
bug
sexist
hack
enslave
napalm
annoyed
convict
mourn
disappointment
displeasure
strain
cellblock
punitive
disappointed
grimy
badness
crutch
manhunt
cannibalism
cheater
sinful
distorted
persecute
shank
regretful
criminal
phony
coward
pimple
muck
casualty
maniacal
obnoxious
shitty
uncertainty
stomachache
infraction
obsess
harmful
politician
spineless
measles
tedious
disprove
thorn
desecrate
angry
gambling
warrant
conflict
wacko
deceitful
punishment
swear
appalled
crap
overwrought
mockery
warship
spoil
foul
brainless
sorrowful
hesitation
washout
insolent
discord
heinous
rip
scurvy
stab
communist
odor
uncivilized
varmint
hairball
unattainable
sunburn
resentful
unclear
deposition
fee
teething
lumpy
impair
juvenile
projectile
urinal
widow
gunfight
lesion
accursed
toxic
tobacco
awkwardness
scurry
swindle
confused
wickedness
pornography
delinquency
pileup
bribery
testicular
bawl
misplace
venereal
dispute
exhumation
repression
prohibition
solicitor
gruel
separate
anxious
horrific
ridicule
immoral
intolerable
rickety
sinister
banshee
narcissism
neurotic
grotesque
menacing
unlucky
ailing
stagger
deficiency
illegitimate
gangster
distressed
motherfucking
freezing
retarded
raging
piranha
economy
exploit
pollution
semen
jinx
beggar
mucus
divorcee
unromantic
criticism
disembodied
condemn
indictment
confrontation
affliction
dire
smoke
mean
offend
inflammatory
fetal
expel
weep
demeaning
stepmother
graft
madness
worried
incinerator
deteriorating
trafficking
embezzlement
grim
probe
error
headlock
deficit
strife
brooding
cuckold
chloroform
fireball
whorehouse
dictator
skull
disorder
forgetfulness
immature
mildew
unclean
bunion
snide
scared
missile
tetanus
tragic
squirm
fracture
mislead
idiot
stumble
smother
detention
fecal
malignant
repossess
inconclusive
soggy
suicide
monstrosity
hazmat
bruising
entrails
scatter
intestine
bigamy
litigation
klutz
resent
gunk
unfortunate
ineffectual
injure
hazard
late
embarrass
ultimatum
critical
derail
untrustworthy
commie
punishable
old
objection
unacceptable
derelict
unreliable
pimp
discouraging
obese
unfit
racketeering
musty
irritable
exterminate
smuggle
queasy
bullheaded
pushy
doubtful
motherless
scalpel
witless
flunk
snoop
fret
confiscate
deceit
wrongful
crushed
reaper
disgusted
bitchy
liability
overwhelm
absence
deprive
trash
nefarious
nemesis
dizziness
arrhythmia
awkward
cough
untimely
hardheaded
welfare
deviled
infirmary
zilch
desolation
heartburn
interruption
distance
subservient
contaminate
underworld
overbearing
moody
epidural
chronic
acid
grouch
blabbermouth
disappointing
rusted
callous
cystic
gassy
shootout
oncology
cutthroat
anguish
alleged
unannounced
needy
wreck
opposing
befall
numbskull
dreary
deny
larceny
trickster
scavenger
mercenary
berserk
negative
disturb
yell
unforgiving
slob
downside
exhaustion
moldy
impatience
discredit
clingy
stinky
unarmed
malpractice
destroy
prejudicial
tardiness
ghoul
upset
porky
emphysema
destitute
hangover
invade
barbaric
deserter
felony
drugs
vagrancy
hateful
clash
jeering
dishonesty
predatory
ogre
provocation
gory
sadist
fathead
nightstick
cellulite
vindictive
prostrate
hearsay
lifer
neurological
stupidity
conspire
fleabag
jeopardy
heathen
lone
menopause
sickle
warhead
fucker
creepy
cryptic
disobey
vanish
pothole
infiltration
sludge
lousy
pestilence
pessimist
faker
scuff
booger
fatigued
grievance
nave
scorching
sour
flatulence
contusion
trouble
irritation
negro
mangle
inappropriate
shameful
perjury
impostor
tangle
guilt
tardy
atrocious
restless
cholera
hypocrisy
delude
untidy
distract
wrath
hostile
hazardous
pest
stinger
hooker
demented
vanishing
unbecoming
cranky
stockade
battering
litigator
shrunken
overworked
liquidate
yucky
spit
cheat
racist
overdue
pungent
malady
methane
deviant
sever
condescending
demolition
parole
parched
floozy
despise
cockeyed
crummy
lurch
revolver
irritate
antichrist
lose
dumb
loudmouth
quit
bulge
disturbing
altercation
militant
enraged
reckless
erratic
degrade
menace
addictive
coronary
hobo
pressure
indiscreet
zit
gaff
regression
bandage
peeper
inconsiderate
expense
chauvinist
disobedience
scrape
shortness
sledgehammer
unruly
discontinue
mucous
shove
indirect
cocksucker
destruct
electrocute
risky
snitch
noisy
carcass
overlord
hex
faulty
relinquish
rubble
unfeeling
obscenity
whip
vulture
regrettable
forfeit
impractical
gastric
scrounge
submit
switchblade
unfaithful
werewolf
schmuck
probing
rectal
dumpster
colonic
displease
aggravation
rant
bereaved
mistrust
masochist
smuggler
contempt
demolish
forgetful
taint
racket
charade
unfriendly
restraint
sully
lobbyist
sacrificial
racism
bash
filthy
meager
impeachment
miser
landfill
stinging
hate
intrusive
outraged
killing
squeamish
loss
billing
fake
insecticide
wannabe
pollute
corporation
detriment
intestinal
jagged
infuriating
ominous
overreact
poop
ripper
gallows
forbid
meanie
insulting
disdainful
blackface
insensitive
inhibition
disagreeable
slump
estranged
shrew
methadone
oncologist
morbid
distressing
biter
traitorous
cramp
guilty
indignity
unwilling
shanty
brittle
refuse
bondsman
leech
alone
mold
spill
bald
dump
scram
bowel
rusty
manure
scandalous
complicate
blab
blister
kaput
pity
disabled
porker
bigotry
pistol
deadline
tension
warden
womanizer
sweaty
stuffy
undignified
lewd
feces
clench
loser
wreak
calamity
bicker
stingy
canker
uptight
oedipal
agitate
appalling
livid
cut
obesity
urine
artificial
suppress
paranoia
slug
malice
blade
outnumber
gargoyle
pariah
discrimination
shatter
trickery
sullen
negligent
tuition
wasteland
remorse
anarchist
sedition
faithless
possum
lag
clod
deceive
barbed
retaliate
scratchy
hypodermic
impede
bitter
disciplinary
jockstrap
prick
shameless
tacky
waste
honky
goddamn
shit
hungry
combative
improper
spic
bribe
phooey
leaky
scold
blasphemy
sleazy
pitchfork
undermine
materialistic
inflict
contraband
smite
temperamental
temper
hang
brat
stain
beatnik
hapless
annihilate
fury
spanking
stigma
exterminator
bitterness
gross
disrupt
gouge
achy
superficial
incorrect
glum
ashamed
tamper
rogue
shattering
creep
friendless
lockup
shun
grope
volatile
obscene
arrogant
annoy
knucklehead
interrogate
apprehensive
banish
burner
occult
bolt
tuberculosis
muffler
difficulty
homesick
grouse
landlord
tubby
insignificant
goddamned
snarl
aggression
ordeal
detest
retrial
problematic
bullfighter
useless
misbehave
abolish
displace
snuff
drainage
scorpion
shoot
snippy
fumble
poacher
exclude
copycat
infomercial
consequence
farewell
infantry
negligible
weenie
fight
prostitution
jealous
patronizing
fib
vulgar
purge
vermin
bloodthirsty
thankless
funk
girdle
whiny
knockoff
gynecologist
costly
rambling
undergo
irrelevant
opium
overkill
mistake
tattletale
criticize
FALSE
splat
abnormal
dentist
retribution
obstruct
withholding
dusty
seedy
disability
puss
distort
sneaky
scheme
foolhardy
forger
sacrilege
pusher
interfere
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Joy = high valence, medium arousal, high dominance

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Surprise = high valence, high arousal, medium dominance

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