Emotional Thesaurus : A Great Writer’s Tool


I have found a wonderful resource book that I want to recommend to all my fiction writing friends.

The Emotional Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a great tool to help writers find the right gesture, description or inner feeling for any character. The book is divided into 75 emotions starting with adoration and ending with worry. Each emotion is broken down into definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long term, cues of suppressed and a Writer’s tip added for good measure.

This book could be read from start to finish but is better used as a resource. As I am rewriting and editing my novel I ran across a section where I used the word nervous. I need to show that nervousness to the reader. Turning to the Nervousness section I found lots of helpful clues.

The list of physical signals was quite long. I found rubbing hand’s down ones pants, a lack of eye contact and scraping hands through hair as great suggestions. But one needs to go deeper so I looked at the list of internal sensations discovering nausea and an empty feeling in the pit of the stomach set my imagination in motion. The mental response that best fit my character was a desire to flee. I found panic attack in the cues of acute or long term nervousness and a pasted on smile under cues of suppressed nervousness.

The Writer Tip on the nervousness page was a helpful reminder. “Body movement and external reactions alone will not create an emotional connection for the reader. Pairing action with a light use of internal sensations and or thoughts creates a deeper emotional pull.”

I found reading thorough the list caused me to reexamine my whole scene adding the components that were missing. It stretched my imagination as I created a new more powerful scene. The lists are not designed for you to copy the words into your manuscript but rather expand your thinking regarding your characters. As I read the list I could see which qualities fit my heroine and which made more sense for my hero or a minor character.

The Emotional Thesaurus is a must have for your writer’s bookshelf. Keep it close at hand for easy reference.