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The Emotion Thesaurus

For Christmas last year, I received a new craft book. It had graced my Amazon wishlist for months, and I had heard very good things about this book. Little did I know how much it would change my writing.

I hear it said a lot to “show, don’t tell.” But I’ll be honest, sometimes I struggle finding exactly how to portray raw, natural emotion. How do I show joy/anger/frustration and really convey those emotions without just spelling it out?

Enter: The Emotion Thesaurus.

The Emotion Thesaurus is written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. They run the website: Writers Helping Writers. This book takes on 75 common emotions, and helps you think through the physical signs, the internal sensations, the mental response, cues for long-term emotions, and cues for suppressed emotions. This book is also sprinkled (yes, like glitter) with helpful tips on responses, and emotional needs of characters.

The introduction in this book was enough for me to go back through several things I’ve written and make adjustments. I believe this craft book holds nuggets of information for newbies and veterans alike. With 75 different emotions to pull from, this book covers more than the standard fare. Some of my favorites to pick apart are smugness, envy, anxiety, and irritation. To pull from the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, if I have to read that Nynaeve is tugging on her braid while listening to Rand, Perrin, or Mat one more time….

But that’s the thing. Humans are physical and emotional creatures. There are physical tells for every emotion. It may be a subtle flush of the cheeks, and a character who constantly “one-ups” everyone or a character who bounces on their feet and hums a song while the train pulls in bringing loved ones. Our emotions bleed out through or stances, eyes, and the volume of our voice.

It’s easy to write Little Bobby was happy when he held the dog. But when Little Bob giggled as the puppy licked his face, you really envision the scene and are transported to that moment. Isn’t this the goal of writing? To connect your reader to the characters in your story.

This book has become one of those things that sits on/under/really close to my desk. As I read through my writing and find Shamar was scared, I grab this book and flip (alphabetically) to fear and I read about the physical responses that come with that emotion. I see what the mental reactions to this emotion are, and I put myself in my characters shoes. Shamar is no longer scared, he clenches his fists, and looks around, wondering what’s going to happen next.

I highly recommend this book.

What is one of the craft books that you keep close while you write? I have a friend who loves The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. What book do you grab and flip to that well-known section to find the inspiration, guidance, or courage to plod on? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, or check out my newly completed Author Page, where you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon!

One comment on “The Emotion Thesaurus

  1. I completely agree about the Emotion Thesaurus–it’s an invaluable resource. (It sits right next to my computer, too.)

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