I just received a book that I think is a Godsend to writing. It’s entitled The Emotion Thesaurus written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It was recommended to me by Christi Corbett (see link on my blogroll). Ackerman and Puglisi write:
“All successful novels, no matter what genre, have one thing in common, emotion. It lies at the core of every character’s decision, action, and word, all of which drive the story. Without emotion, a character’s personal journey is pointless.”
I think this holds true for short stories and personal narrative as well.
The Emotion Thesaurus was written to aid writers in portraying the emotions of their characters and avoiding some of the problems that are common to that process. Listed in the Table of Contents are 75 emotions ranging from “Adoration” to “Worry.” Each emotion listed has a two-page entry that gives us a definition of the emotion, followed by physical signals seen by a viewer (reader) and internal sensations that might be felt by someone experiencing that emotion. Continued on the second page for each emotion you will find “Mental Responses,” “Cues of Acute or Long-Term”..(target emotion), and “Cues of Suppression” for each emotion.
Avoiding showing too little or too much emotion in our characters can be a problem. Narrating a character’s emotion conveys too little and doesn’t engage the reader enough to allow them to feel the emotion and experience the character’s situation. Cliched emotions indicate lazy writing and don’t allow for a full range of an emotion. Using the thesaurus can help the writer better express what the character is going through as he/she experiences the emotion better than a cliche can.
Here are some other problem areas that The Emotion Thesaurus helps a writer overcome:
- Melodrama – more dramatic emotion than a situation calls for
- Over-reliance on dialogue or thought – learn to use nonverbal cues
- Exclamation points to portray intensity – find nonverbal cues to use instead
- Misusing backstoy to enhance reader empathy
At the end of each two-page spread the reader of The Emotion Thesaurus will find a “Writer’s Tip.” Here I quote the tip for portraying “agitation”:
“A ticking clock can ramp up the emotion in any scene. As the character hurries to complete a task or meet a need, mistakes caused by rushing open the door for a richer emotional ride.”
I’m looking forward to using The Emotional Thesaurus. It would be a great addition to your resource shelf too.