How do you behave when you are uncomfortable vs when you are mulling over a difficult problem? The facial expressions look a lot alike so how do you distinguish between the two? What about anger and concern? Or surprise and wonder?
You can always tell the reader what your character is feeling but it works much better when you can show the emotion vs telling about it. Instead of writing “Jake was angry,” you would show his anger through facial expressions and gestures and even how he moved. But before you can describe these expressions, movements and gestures, you need to see them in your mind’s eye. The best way to do this is to study them. You can do this by replaying choice scenes from a dramatic movie.
The movie can be one you know well. If you need to study “anger,” choose a scene where one or more of the characters is truly, deeply peeved. Two or three angry characters mean that you get to study the way that two or three actors portray these emotions.
Click mute and then play the scene. Study the characters carefully. Can you tell when they switch from your target emotion to something else?
Watch the scene again, this time with the sound on. Were you right? Could you tell when the character’s emotion changed?
Watch several more scenes, first with the sound off and then with the sound on. Can you tell what emotions the characters are demonstrating? Once you get it down, you are ready to write your characters into and back out of an emotional situation.