Writing Tip — Favorite Books and Giveaway: “The Emotion Thesaurus”

Emotion-Thesaurus-2nd-EditionI can’t remember how I found The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, but it was one of the best books I’ve bought on writing technique. It’s so good that everyone who comments during the month of May will be put in a drawing for it. To enter the drawing, you must be a U.S. resident You can comment from now until May 31 at 5 p.m. EST. I will notify the winner that day.

When my freelance editor Sharyn Kopf tackled my YA novel, The Truth and Other Strangers, she pointed out that I used the same facial expressions to convey emotions, usually smiles, grins, and the width of the eyes. So I had to figure out how to describe emotions in a variety of ways.

The Emotion Thesaurus offers loads of descriptions for 130 emotions. Under each one is a definition, a list of physical signs, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of an acute case of this emotion, and cues of suppressing it, along with a writer’s tip.

Whenever I see that I am falling into the trap of relying too heavily on my character’s grins or narrowed eyes, I pick up the thesaurus. Reading the list of physical signs lifts my imagination out of its rut. Sometimes, I don’t use the exact sign the authors have listed, but the signs have sparked my creativity, and I come up with one of my own.

For example, when my main character experiences fear, I often use shortness of breath or a sick stomach. The thesaurus suggests such reactions as “lowering voice to a whisper”, “pleading, talking to oneself.”, and “stiff walking, the knees locking” among 33 physical signs. For the main character of my recent mystery short story, I decided when she was scared that she would raise up on her toes, digging in like a sprinter, to be ready to run.

These authors have other writing thesaurus, which I have not read, but I’m intrigued by The Rural Setting Thesaurus. Although I live in the country, I know I can use someone else’s perspective to see a familiar setting with new eyes.

Be sure to comment during May and to be eligible to win The Emotion Thesaurus


7 thoughts on “Writing Tip — Favorite Books and Giveaway: “The Emotion Thesaurus”

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  1. Tessa a Afshar mention this in a conference class but I actually came across another one that is just literary psychological terms. One hard thing about writing is different advice. Someone recommended I just label the word depression as it was another person so they should describe the motions instead. So I guess the right answer you could’ve just do whatever you do but it would be good to know multiple ways to describe the same problem.
    For instance, I often referred to depression as a pressing down in your life for you physically feel like gravity is just too heavy

  2. I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds like a great resource. I have a dictionary, thesaurus, dream dictionary, list of enneagrams, list of symbols and meanings, and a book of baby name meanings. This will make a great addition.

  3. Sounds like a great thesaurus for writers. I usually google things whenever I’m stuck in a description I can’t find the words for. I don’t live in the U.S, but it’s nice of you to give it away.

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