Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Thesaurus for Emotions

I recently found a reference book for writers that I like. It’s called The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Publisi, 2012, e-book formatting by: Cyber Witch Press.
I have used it in editing some of my work. The authors have two other works 1.) The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes, and 2.) The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. I haven’t used the other books, yet.
Here’s how the Emotion Thesaurus works:
• Identify the Root Emotion – the character may be awash with emotions, but pick the dominant one.
• Utilize the Setting – match the emotion to the setting
• Less is More – use a sparing part of their descriptors
• Twist the Cliché – if you come up with a cliché, change it to make it yours
• View the Entries as a Launching Point – don’t just copy what they have, add to it, change it, make it yours
• Try Related Emotions – don’t just look up one emotion and use that; look at several that are close together and decide which fits best
• Visceral Reactions as Physical Indicators – if your character is experiencing something internally, what would be a tale tell manifestation of that emotion?
The authors wisely suggest you use their work as a starting point. Don’t just copy their words, use them as a taking off point.
Let’s look at part of one emotion, the first one. It’s adoration. First, they define Adoration. Then they give some physical signs. They begin with ‘lips parting,’ slack or soft expression, and’ walking quickly to erase the distance.’
These are followed with about thirty other physical signs.
Then they go to Internal Sensations. They begin with ‘quickening heartbeat.’ Which makes perfect sense.
Next they go on to Mental Responses., For example, a wish to move closer or tough.
They go on to find Cues of Acute or Long-term Adoration. Follow that with identifying emotions that adoration may escalate to.
They finish their list with Cues of Suppressed Adoration.
Finally, they end their sections by offering Writer’s Tips for that particular emotion.
Check it out. I got it for less than ten dollars and have found it useful.
Here is one way I use the Thesaurus. When I catch myself using the same descriptors, I look up other descriptive clues . We fall into word patterns we favor, that’s part of Voice. But, using the same words too often is monotonous. If you’re like me, you keep a regular thesaurus at hand when you’re writing. That’s for when you use the same word too often.
The Critique Group I go to has members who will point out words you use too often. They call them echo words: a word or phrase that recurs in a sentence or paragraph. They recommend changing them to synonyms.
Take a look at this book. I hope you find it useful.