Emotion beats are phrases or sentences that accompany dialogue that describe what the speaker is feeling, smelling, tasting, or thinking. Like dialogue tags, they may be placed before, in between, or after dialogue.
In a similar fashion, phrases that communicate the speaker’s movements or facial expressions are called action beats. Action beats and emotion beats are so similar, many experts group them both under the heading of action beats.
Examples of emotion beats:
Jodi felt her blood pressure rise. “She said what?”
“It’s great to be home.” Roger detected the scent of homemade bolognese sauce. “You made favorite meal? I love you, Mom!”
“That dress looks spectacular on you!” Mary said. I wouldn’t be caught dead in it. But if that’s what floats your boat….
See our article How to Write Engaging Dialogue for tips on how to use emotion and action beats to bring your dialogue to life.