Emotion is what pulls a reader into your story and won’t let her go. On Tuesday we discussed the importance of injecting emotion into your story so that the reader feels what your character is feeling. Today we examine a resource that can help writers achieve this goal.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi employs a list format to make it easy for writers to find the character emotion they are struggling to show.
Let’s take the example of John from Tuesday’s post, Once More with Emotion. John was angry because he was hungry and one of his co-workers nabbed the last melt-in-your-mouth, piping hot Krispy Kreme donut. We don’t want to settle for just telling the reader John was angry, but perhaps we’re unsure of how to demonstrate this to the reader.
Let’s open The Emotion Thesaurus and flip to the table of contents. There we’ll find an alphabetic listing of various emotions ranging from adoration and amusement to fear, humiliation, and worry. Now let’s flip to the section on “Anger.” Ackerman and Puglisi start by defining the emotion. In this case, anger is defined as: “Strong displeasure or wrath, usually aroused by a perceived wrong.”
Next we see an extensive list of physical signals that will clue readers in on the fact that John is angry. They include: flaring nostrils, a high chin, a reddening of the face, slamming doors, cupboards, or drawers; and a long list of other physical reactions. Many of the physical reactions listed you probably wouldn’t have thought of, but will quickly recognize as signals that someone is angry. But there’s more.
Next we are given internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term anger, and cues of suppressed anger (LOVE THIS ONE). As you read the symptoms of anger you will likely recall instances in which you’ve experienced (or witnessed) some of these signals in yourself or others. The thesaurus, combined with our memories, enables us to go back and write the scene in a way that truly demonstrates the character’s emotion. More importantly, it will enable the reader to connect with the character’s emotion.
The Emotion Thesaurus is an easy read and a great resource for storytellers. Get your copy here.
What resources do you use to help you portray the emotion of your characters?