In between the hurdles we put our characters through, we often have bright scenes where they enjoy themselves or begin to achieve something they've always wanted--even if that moment is brief. Having these high points often make the sad events seem more profound by contrast. We can later take our characters' bliss away from them for maximum impact. (YES! we are cruel and brutal, mwuah-haha.)
Writing these scenes of happiness can be more difficult than writing sadness or grief. How do we describe this happiness, so that it comes across as believable?
Ways to Express Happiness
1. LAUGHTER. The traditional way: laughing, giggling, chuckling, tears streaming down the face from laughing too hard. Be careful overdoing this; it can set up an emotional disconnect if your reader isn't feeling it to the degree your character is. As far as style of writing, definitely don't go all flowery and syrupy in your prose when your character is joyful; usually simpler is better.
2. BODY LANGUAGE. A bounce in the step, humming or singing, whistling a merry tune. Taking the stairs two at a time. Skipping. Dancing. Feeling floaty, light, and alive. Being breathless. Unable to get a coherent sentence out, with words tumbling over the tongue. Cracking jokes and smiles. All these things are great ways of showing happiness without writing the words happiness or joy.
Key concept: SHOW not TELL your characters' emotions.
3. INTERACTIONS. How your characters react to the world when they are happy will vary. They may shout and whoop, or even weep tears of joy. They may go quiet and dreamy in bliss, staring off into the distance. They may be giddy and not able to think coherently. They may party with their friends, drive a car or ride a bike too fast--or keep it under wraps if it's a forbidden romance. Often judgment is skewed, and they can make (plot-interesting) mistakes while bouncing around in the ether.
Staying True to Your Character
How you show joy in your stories depends on your character's personality. Is your character emotionally expressive and not afraid to emote in front of others? Is he or she more subdued or shy? Is she or he the kind who walks around with a quiet smile--or runs around bouncing and whooping? Be sure to stay consistent.
What things do you relate to in a book, that cause you to smile or be happy?
Do you find writing happiness harder or easier to write than sadness?
How does YOUR character show happiness or joy?