My cat, Clue, displaying his usual emotion: hungry. Photo by Kate Ota 2020
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a resource book which lists entries for one hundred thirty emotions (in the second edition.) You choose an emotion, go to the entry, and read the definition and lists of physical signs and behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, acute or long-term responses, signs the emotion is being suppressed, which emotions it can escalate or deescalate to, and associated power verbs. There is an introduction section explaining how to use it and some character development items to keep in mind. It’s part of a larger series of thesauruses by these authors, which includes the emotional wound thesaurus, the positive trait thesaurus, and more.
I heard about this book from several sources, and debated buying it, since an emotion thesaurus sounded like a thesaurus with fewer words. I bought a physical copy from my local indie for $17.99 (plus tax and shipping because of COVID.) I was pleasantly surprised that it’s more of an encyclopedia than a traditional thesaurus. I’ve been using it mainly for its intended purpose: to better show, rather than tell, characters' emotions. Especially for characters who do not have a point of view. The list of physical signs and behaviors is my favorite and I’ve used something from it every time I’ve opened the book. I also used it to deepen my point of view characters by thinking about which emotions they have chronically through the plot. That’s when I love the long-term response section. I’ll definitely keep using this as I edit and for the next books I write.
Is it Worth It?
Yes! I was skeptical at first, but I highly recommend this for anyone who struggles to have their characters emote. If you’re in the planning stages, it’s also great for character development. It’s $17.98 on Bookshop (the multi-indie-bookstore website, check it out.) There’s a digital version too, though perhaps it's harder to navigate since it's not a traditional cover-to-cover read. I’m probably going to check out the other books in their series because I’ve loved this so much.
Have you used The Emotion Thesaurus, or the other books in Ackerman and Puglisi’s series? Did you find it worth it? Have you found other similar books? Let’s discuss in the comments!