Tuesday, August 25, 2015

E is For Emotion Thesaurus

Jennifer returns to the letter “E,” since she missed it the first time around...

Paula turned me on to this resource and it is gold for a writer! The Emotion Thesaurus helps writers show their characters feelings in more than just the basic ways.

For me, when I write my stories, I hear my characters talking in my head and I write down what they’re saying. I know what situations I’m putting them through (or they tell me), but I don’t always “feel” what they’re going through. Part of it is that I’m in such a rush to get it on the page, I subconsciously skip over what seems obvious to me. It’s only when I go back to read it that I realize I haven’t shown my characters’ reactions to what has happened. I haven’t made the reader understand or feel what the characters are experiencing.

And that’s where The Emotion Thesaurus comes in. The book is divided alphabetically by emotion. Each emotion is given a definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term emotion and cues of the suppressed emotion.

So instead of saying, “Claire was happy” or “Claire smiled,” I can say, “Claire’s eyes danced” (physical sign), “Claire felt breathless” (internal sensation), “Claire wanted to make everyone else feel as good as she” (mental response), “Shaking with excitement, Claire hung up the phone” (acute/long-term), or “Taking deep, calming breaths, Claire turned to her boyfriend” (suppressed).

Which one I choose to use depends on the situation as well as the POV. I tend to use physical signs when I’m in the other person’s POV because they can see it. I tend to use internal sensations when I’m in my character’s POV because they can feel it. I might intersperse one of the other responses if I feel they are necessary. The key is to keep it simple and not to overuse them, or use multiple ones all the time. Our readers don’t need to be hit over the head.


Have you used this resource? Tell me about your experiences.

11 comments:

  1. I agree this thesaurus is gold! I'll also use the physical signals (as well as the internal sensations) when I'm in a character's POV, especially if it seems an appropriate 'action' for the situation at the time. Of course, as with all lists like this, less is often more, so you have to pick and choose carefully!

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  2. I too use this thesaurus, though usually after my first draft. I'm always in too much of a hurry initially. It's a wonderful aid for any writer.

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    1. I agree with you, Margaret. First I have to get everything on paper.

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  3. Jennifer, Thanks for reminding. I do have this resource, but it's buried somewhere. Joanne :)

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    1. You're welcome! It's so easy to use, too.

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  4. I have Kindle on my laptop, so it's easy to open this thesaurus for a quick prompt. I love it!

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    1. Oh, I didn't even think of it on the Kindle. I have it in paperback.

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  5. I haven't used this particular resource, although I'm going to be sure to get it on my desk ASAP.

    I have downloaded a lot of guides to body language, which I use often while writing to help with that show instead of tell.

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    1. The paperback copy is permanently open on my desk, Debra! I find it easier to use this than the original version I bought for my Kindle as I can flip back and forth quickly!

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    2. I like those too, but this one combines all of those things.

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