I've thought about having a character in my current work break down and sob...it seems appropriate to the story as it's going, and seems to work when the unwritten pieces fit together in my mind...but it's been so long since either I or any of my characters has done so that I've forgotten how to do it. Certainly I know having my first-person narrator say "I broke down and sobbed" just doesn't cut it.
Any thoughts, on that or any other expression of emotion?
If it's a first-person character, it will be harder to describe than if it were someone else witnessing him or her sobbing. So you'll have to show the buildup of emotion to the breaking point, and then the breakdown in the character's control, possibly with a tear trickling down the face to start with, or a sudden, shocking to the character, overwhelming explosion of emotion that makes him fall to his knees in despair, his face in his hands as he rocks in an agony of grief - or something. Hmm, let me try writing an example. It will be WAY over the top, but it may give you some ideas.
* * *
As I watched him walk out of my life, my heart pounded frantically against my chest, as if it were trying to escape and go to him, to beg him to return. But he didn't turn back. He couldn't. The chains his captors had wrapped around him cut cruelly into the exposed flesh of his ankles and squeezed his arms so tightly against him, he couldn't have embraced me if he tried. My heart now felt as if it were being squeezed by a giant hand, causing agonizing pain. But no pain was as severe as knowing I'd never see him again. As my knees gave way and I fell to the ground, his retreating form was distorted by the tears welling in my eyes. I fought the strong hands that kept me from running after him, but they held me fast. A sob broke through my control, then another, and finally I was screaming his name, blinded by tears, fighting my captors with everything in me.
* * *
Okay, so it's corny, but you can see this woman going from heartache to heartbreak, from some self-control to toally losing it - at least a bit. Hope it helps!
I don't think anyone actually says they "sobbed." Since it's first person, I'd stick with "cried," and use "sob" only as embellishment, as in, "I cried like a baby. Great big sobs I couldn't control."
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