Monday, September 2, 2013

The Emotion Thesaurs: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have published a book called The Emotion Thesaurus:  A Writer's Guide to Character Expression.

The book was a result of postings on their online site, The Bookshelf Muse. I have been a subscriber of The Bookshelf Muse for a long time. I made a file for myself of their postings about character types and how they would behave.

The traits are in alphabetical order. I will use sadness as an example. An example of a physical sign of sadness would be "touching a cross or fingering jewelry for comfort". Almost a whole page of physical signs are listed, which gives the writer a wide range of choices to choose from.

Then, the authors list how the character would react internally to this emotion such as "a scratchy throat or the body feeling cold".

The third area, is Mental Responses. A good example here is "a desire to escape the sadness (through sleep, drink, or companionship)".

Cues of Acute or Long-Term Sadness, is the fourth area of information. "Tears pouring, dripping or coursing" is one of the choices in this area that I would use.

The last area is, Cues of Suppressed Sadness. Changing the Subject is a technique I personally use.

At the bottom of each page is a Writer's Tip. Seventy-five tips on good writing are an additional bonus. The book begins with an eleven page introduction and closes with suggestions of additional reference books that will help the writer "show not tell" about the characters in her/his book.

You should buy this book and also check out The Bookshelf Muse for lots of good writing tips. I purchased this book as soon as it was available, and I keep it within handle reach as one of my favorite reference tools.


  1. Looks like a great read! I need to get it.

  2. You should get it. You are so good at characterization, but this will give you some good ideas to be even better. Thanks for your comment and your help.

  3. I downloaded the list that enhances this book & it's super. I need to get the book. Thanks, Sue for the heads-up.

  4. Thanks so much for the lovely review! So glad the ET is helpful, and I really appreciate the shout out. This is a hard area for so many. Do you have Emotion Amplifiers as well? It's a free PDF on our blog, and it might help you as well. It's a companion booklet to the ET and is similar in layout but looks at things like Stress, illness, hunger, thirst, attraction and other conditions that make characters more emotionally volatile. You can find the Free download button in the sidebar!


  5. Angela,
    I did do the download. I love your site and the book. Thanks for posting.

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