Book Review · Creative Writing · Novels · Writing Resources

Book Review: The Emotion Thesaurus

When I first heard about this book over on Mythic Scribes, I knew I had to have it. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression was written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, and it’s even better than I expected. After less than two months of having it on my shelf, I really don’t know how I lived without it for so long.

Why It’s So Awesome

If you’ve done any amount of writing, you’ve likely realized by now how hard it is to come up with original descriptions. There are only so many times you can have characters “shudder in fear” or be “giddy with joy” before you get bored with the description. And if you’re getting bored writing it, you can bet readers aren’t going to be any more interested.

Enter the emotion thesaurus. Instead of reusing the same descriptions you’ve heard and read thousands of times before, you can use this book to find fresh suggestions for describing emotions and emotional reactions. It also helps with the Show, Don’t Tell adage. Instead of telling readers how happy Sally is about her report card, you can write a description of her bouncing on her toes and smiling as she hands the card to her mother.

How It Works

The Emotion Thesaurus includes entries for 75 different emotion. Each entry gives a definition of the emotion, followed by two pages of internal and external responses to each emotion. It is especially helpful when trying to convey the emotions of a character outside the story’s point of view. Your first-person narrator can’t know what his enemy is thinking, but he can start getting nervous if he sees the man hiding a smile behind his hand, whistling, or standing with a hand planted confidently on his hips.

For a better idea of what each entry looks like, there are samples available on the authors’ website. They also have a handy cheat sheet for difference in how male and female characters tend to display emotions, an e-book supplement to the thesaurus, and links for where to buy your own copy of the book.

I have a good assortment of writing books and resources sitting on my computer desk, but this books is the only one I look at consistently. It has its limitations – the chief on my mind right now being there is no entry for disdain – but it is still one of the best writing resources out there. I highly recommend it to all my fellow writers.


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