While realtors hail, “Location, location, location;” writers shout, “emotion, emotion, emotion.”
You can never get enough on the page. Good stories are filled with emotion. But writing it isn’t easy.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression written and published by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is an amazing resource for writers looking for the perfect word or phrase to capture a feeling.
Here’s what it’s done for me:
I relied on a small stable of words and expressions to convey emotion. I focused on the eyes a lot. With great frequency, they: grew larger, narrowed, hardened, threw daggers and …. You get the idea. Sometimes I’d move up to the eyebrows, which: knit, met in the middle and danced a jig, furrowed, rose, fell and wrinkled. Urggggggh. So bad.
I’m using a variety of descriptors to show emotion. Whenever I catch myself thinking about the character’s eyes, I look up the emotion I want to describe in my new thesaurus and come up with something fresh. I think I’ve died and gone to a writer’s heaven.
The Structure of the Book:
The writers list 75 emotions in their table of contents, alphabetically from “adoration” to “worry.” Two full pages are devoted to each emotion. They define it, give physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and discuss longer term effects. It’s simply brilliant, and for me indispensable.
At the end of each emotion section they give a Writer’s Tip in a shaded box.
Here are my three favorites:
- “When revising, look for instances where emotions are NAMED. Nine times out of ten this indicates a lack of confidence that the emotion is shown clearly through thought, sensations and body language. Strong verbal and nonverbal cues negate the need to ‘explain’ the emotion to the reader.” p. 39
- “Make a list of your body language crutches (frowning, smiling, shrugging, head shaking, etc.). Use your word processor’s search and replace feature to highlight these so you can pinpoint where the emotional description needs some freshening up.” p. 47
- “Never let the reader notice the writing. Overusing metaphors, similes, descriptive terms, and repeated body language can pull the reader out of the story.” p. 95
The authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi also have an outstanding blog for writers: The Bookshelf Muse, which I’ll talk about another day, but you might want have a peak at sooner.
I’ve added The ET (The Emotion Thesaurus) and a couple of others to my Writing Reference Chart on my website.
How about you? Do you have a favorite resource book for emotion?