Emotion, Emotion, Emotion

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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:

51wm-tvG3pL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_My before:

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.

My now:

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.

Writer’s Tips

At the end of each emotion section they give a Writer’s Tip in a shaded box.

Here are my three favorites:

  1. “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
  2. “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
  3. “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?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

Jo-Ann Carson writes a saucy mix of fantasy, adventure and romance. Her latest stories are in the Gambling Ghosts Series: A Highland Ghost for Christmas, A Viking Ghost for Valentine’s Day, Confessions of a Pirate Ghost and The Biker Ghost Meets his Match. An anthology of the novellas will be coming out this summer. Currently she is working on Midnight Magic, A Ghost & Abby Mystery, the first book in a spin-off series from her Viking ghost story. Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, playing Mah Jong and drinking good coffee. You can chat with her on social media: You can find all her links on her website - http://jo-anncarson.com

26 thoughts on “Emotion, Emotion, Emotion”

    1. Hi Charlotte
      Me too.
      As the writers of the book (Ackerman and Puglisi) say, emotion, “…lies at the core of every character’s decision, action and word, all of which drive the story.” (p.1)
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  1. Jo-Ann: May I post this on our website MystereriesandMargaritas tomorrow? I wouldn’t do it without your permission. Also, I loved your descriptions of Italy. We have a house there and I go often. It’s always wonderful to read/hear of others’ times there. Best, Cassy Pickard

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    1. Cassy
      I’m honored to be re-posted by you. (please add my link)
      I loved Italy. You are so lucky to have a reason to go there often.
      Nice to meet you. I look forward to reading Mysteries and Margaritas.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  2. Love the Charlie Brown and Snoopy image, Jo-Ann. It’s always been a favorite of mine. And thanks for the review of this book. It’s on my “to buy” list – but I want it in hard copy and, oddly, many of the stores (like Chapters Indigo) only have it in e-book format. Seems like maybe it’s going out of print. That would be very sad. While I read most fiction in e-book format, I do like hard copy for my reference books.

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    1. Hi Susan
      It feels like a Charlie Brown morning to me.
      I purchased the book through Amazon.ca and it arrived within 2 days.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  3. Love Charlie and Snoopy, as well! Love this post – makes me think a bit and am curious about the book – will have to go scope it out! Thanks for posting this! Lisa

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  4. Hi Jo-Ann,

    Sounds like a fabulous book. I’m like Susan. I want to have the hard copy of a writing reference book. I’m going to try and find it. Thanks for posting.

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  5. Hey, Jo-Ann. Babysitting two of the grands this morning, so I’m just now chiming in. I think I’ve seen a friend’s copy of this book and I remember it had very small print. Am I confusing another book with this? My friend also swore by her copy.
    Book or no book, it’s always good to be reminded to get the emotion on the page and without using the word. Good post. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Marsha
      Lucky you to be with the kids. Thanks for stopping by.
      The print in my copy is large. I’d guess 14 pt. So it’s probably not the same book unless they’ve done different editions.
      And I agree emotion rules.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

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  6. I got a book back from beta readers recently and they drew my attention to my unhealthy fixation on eyes. I think it’s the easiest body part to describe. 🙂

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    1. Hi Emma
      I always look to a person’s eyes for their emotion, but according to the books we need to give a fuller picture. lol. Got rain here. I hope you are fairing better.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

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  7. There is another reference by the same authors called ‘Emptional Amplifiers’. It has the same format as the Emotional Thesaurus and addresses things like Addiction, Boredom, Cold… – all things that can amplify emotions in situations. It’s worth checking out as well. I don’t know if you can get it in hard cover – I have an e-book version of it.
    Cheers

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    1. Leanne
      I’m really excited to hear there’s another book by these ladies. I’m going to download it. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

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  8. Wow, what a wonderful shout out–thank you so much, Jo-Ann! I absolutely love hearing from writers and how this book is helping them move past facial descriptions and overused gestures. This is such a huge problem for so many of us. Becca and I looked and looked for something to help us in this area and when we couldn’t find anything, we decided to do something about it! We had no idea that so many struggled until this thesaurus became a book!

    Definitely do grab Emotion Amplifiers if you don’t have it–you can find it right in our blog’s sidebar–a free download. And for Susan, if you check back, you should be able to order the ET at any bookstore. They won’t have it on the shelf because it’s *gasp* self published, but they all have the ability to order it. Or you can get it anywhere online B & N, Amazon, The Book Depository, etc. I like my craft books in print as well. 🙂

    Thanks again for the mention. Becca and I both are so happy we can finally contribute to the writing community, because others have taught us so much!

    Angela

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    1. Angela
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
      Actually I’m choked. It’s a bit like meeting your hero in cyberspace.As I keep telling everyone, I love your book.
      I’ll download the Emotion Ampliers next. Thanks for adding all the information on where to find a copy of the book. I’d like to add that you have a blog at http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com.
      Your book is indispensable to me and I’m sure many others. What a wonderful way to give back to the writing community.
      Thank you
      Jo-Ann

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      1. This is so cool, Jo-Ann. Talk about validation of your blog. 🙂 And rightly so, I might add. I actually have the ladies’ web site in my favorites on my computer. When I first read your post, I didn’t remember that. But I’m going after the in print book, now too. We’re all in agreement, we need help in this area. 🙂

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      2. Morning Marsha
        Yes, having Angela talk about her book on my blog felt wonderful. T
        That’s one of the thing I love about blogging you meet the most interesting people from all around the world. I now have this friend in Texas…
        I’ve added the bookshelf blog to my favorite too. What a great resource.
        Best Wishes
        Jo-Ann

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      3. Oh my gosh you are far too good to me! What a kind thing to say ❤ Thanks for putting up the link–I am an a tight deadline and have the swiss cheese brain thing going on…lol Have a lovely week!

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      4. Angela
        You are welcome. I also edited the post to include a link there.
        “Swiss cheese” brain. I love it. Your books are so organized and well written, I’d never have imagined it. Now that I know you’re human, and you’ve made my day.
        Best
        Jo-Ann

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    1. Hi Jacqui
      I’ve just discovered both. It’s a bit like Christmas morning for me:)
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
      Best
      Jo-Ann

      Like

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