I feel like this is something a few writers might struggle with, and while I can’t relate, I can offer advice on how I work emotions for both scenes and characters.
Read. Read a whole lot of things by authors that are great at what you’re not: expressing emotions into your writing. In Reading as a Writer, we talked about the things to consider when doing this. Remember that just because you’re not good at a part of writing, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. Everyone has flaws and strengths and you can get better at it through practice and perseverance.
If you want to write a sad scene, read and study how other authors go through these sad scenes. Don’t outright steal, but try to really understand the root of the feeling. Read poetry, too, because one of the most important things of poetry is to portray emotions, thoughts, and feelings, in a subtle yet interesting way. Also, listen to music related to the feeling. Listen to sad music, good sad music, and try to understand the lyrics or why it is sad.
Why to gather inspiration? To most people, it helps. It gets our imaginations going and makes the writing flow more easily since we have a starting point, however blurry it might be.
Show, don’t tell
(tw: war) “The difference between telling and showing in writing is simple. When you write about war, don’t describe the details and actions of the war. Show the reader the burnt socks of children in the street, the head of a doll sizzling by the curb, and the violent screams suddenly extinguished. If you can do this, the image of war will be branded into the reader’s mind.” - TBV
The ever present rule for writing style, showing and not telling has a simple premise: describe things. Take a moment to really try to show us the scene that we need to see. It comes awfully helpful when writing emotions because you don’t get much from us, the readers, if you tell us that your protagonist is sad. If you show us that they’re sad, through expressions and actions caused by this sadness, through body language, and through speech, we might get a better idea of it, and we might actually feel something too.
You could be failing at this because it’s very easy to fall into the telling, but believe me: if your scene is important and so are the emotions, showing is the way. So, consider the significance of the emotions. Like with any other piece, you have decide on what’s the feeling you want to convey through the writing, and then you have to work towards it. It’s fine if in the first draft you tell, because you can fix and develop it more, later.
Your Character’s Reactions
Everyone has a different way to react to things that affect them, including characters. Some people are more emotional than others and that’s okay; some show emotion in a different way, and that’s okay too. If you want to get better at portraying each of their behaviors in a true-to-them way, then no longer think of how your feeling process goes, but your character’s. Do try to connect however you can to it, though. This goes into the character development and description part of writing, and if your skill is better in this part, or worse, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re willing to get better. Find out how your characters express themselves, and you’ll get better at showing and not telling for them.
Show, Don’t Tell, and Descriptions