Authors often struggle with depictions of emotions. We’re supposed to show them, describe them. For example, “she was surprised by this” is a big no-no, and considered lazy writing. “Her eyes widened and her mouth slacked”, on the other hand, gives us the very image of surprise, without ever mentioning the word.
As you can imagine, this can be tough. But fear not, for thirty years ago, Paul Ekman did cross-cultural research and identified seven basic human emotions. He identified the seven basic emotions through facial expressions. No matter where in the world, what culture, class, race, gender, or lighting, these seven facial expressions were identified across the board:
(photos courtesy of the Writing Helpers Blog)