It doesn’t matter how exciting the events in a novel, without emotion the story will not be engaging to the reader. The emotional journey is the one the reader is truly interested in. We are, by nature, emotional beings; emotion is what fuels us, connects us, and allows us to share ideas and information with others in a meaningful way. As writers, we have the difficult task of trying to capture a character’s emotions and put it onto paper in a believable way. Readers just don’t want to be told how the character feels; they want to feel what the character feels. For this to happen, the characters have to express themselves in ways that are relatable to the reader.
Typically, writers are observant and empathetic people, but what about those who are not naturally inclined? Or how does a writer relay the emotions of a character suffering from long-term depression or anxiety if they themselves have never felt such strong or long-term emotions? That is when The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi comes in handy.
The Emotion Thesaurus provides a list of emotions such as anger, fear, curiosity and provides a definition of each, physical signals, internal signals, mental responses, cues of acute, long-term, and suppressed emotion, as well as tips and techniques for writing nonverbal emotion.
It’s very easy to use. Say I’m writing a scene about a character experiencing guilt for example, I would look up guilt and read the definition to make sure it’s the appropriate emotion. From the list of physical cues provided, I can select the ones that fit my character best, such as, ‘averting or lowering one’s gaze’ or ‘lip biting.’ I can also select internal sensations to show how my character feels, for example, ‘upset stomach’ or ‘pain in the back of the throat.’ There are also mental responses such as ‘anxiety’ to make my character’s feelings real.
As a person who sometimes lacks sympathy for others and has a problem of telling the reader what I want to say rather than showing, this resource has been invaluable. The resource includes 75 emotion entries, each section ending with a writing tip.
The Emotion Thesaurus is available online in paperback format and for Kindle. I purchased mine for Kindle on Amazon.com.
For any writer, novice or professional, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is a great resource.