Tuesday, August 7, 2012

16 Spoiler Alert! Go For Gold With Help From the Emotion Thesaurus

If you’ve been watching the Olympic Games in primetime, you know avoiding spoilers throughout the day isn’t easy. Spoilers ruin the thrill of watching the Olympics for yourself. Readers feel the same way. They don’t want to be told how your characters are feeling. Readers also don't want you to tell them how to feel about your characters. They want to garner their own sense of emotion. Or at least, they’ll think it’s their own. You can nonchalantly craft the pieces that evoke the reaction you hope your readers glean with a few tricks.

Today, we’re getting help from a recently-released resource for writers, THE EMOTION THESAURUS (ET for short). This brilliant book is the brain child of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the ladies behind The Bookshelf Muse.

The ET is a virtual cheat sheet for body language and emotion. Here are just a few of the ways you can utilize the ET to amp up emotion in your writing:

· Body language: Rather than telling the reader that your character is anxious, show the character rubbing the back of their neck or twisting a ring. If your character is satisfied, they might smooth down the front of their shirt or casually anchor a hand on their hip. The ET contains terrific lists of ideas for 75 moods to get your creative juices flowing.

· Double-duty: The great part about body language is that it can be woven in like dialogue tags. That way, you give the usual dialogue tags a rest and include character-revealing action. The Emotion Thesaurus uses the example of a character swiping a wine glass off the kitchen counter if they’re experiencing rage. As you might imagine, there’s a balancing act involved with dialogue tags and body language. Too many body language descriptions, and your scene feels overly dramatic. Too many dialogue tags, and the conversation feels cumbersome. Don’t rely on one over the other, or overlook times when a tag might be omitted altogether. Ultimately, you want the pace to keep moving.

· Characterization: Readers don’t want to be told all about your character in an info-dump. Granted, there are times when telling is going to be necessary. But knowing your characters means digging deeper and knowing their smallest quirks and habits. If your character is a skeptical person, you can use eye rolls and shrugs to establish this trait. If your character tends to be curious, using a tilted head or a lingering touch can show this. Just like we get to know people through observation, readers crave the ability to slowly build a character’s identity through bits and pieces.

· Look inside: Depending on your WIP’s point-of-view, you can utilize Angela and Rebecca’s suggestions for internal sensations or mental responses for your characters. A character experiencing hatred might have pain in their jaw from clenching it or irrational thoughts. If your character feels adoration, they might have a quickening heartbeat or fixate on the subject of their feelings.

I cannot sing the praises of The Emotion Thesaurus enough. I approached Angela about mentioning it in a blog post, and she was as humble and gracious as could be.

More about the Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon: One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character's emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

You can pick up a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, or Smashwords, or visit The Bookshelf Muse to purchase it in pdf format.

Happy writing,
Marissa

16 comments:

  1. Great suggestions on how The Emotion Thesaurus can help writers. I love it. So excited for Becca and Angela.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback, Natalie. Isn't it fabulous? I can't imagine writing without it now.

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  2. I thought this idea for a reference book was awesome! I plan to get a copy in the near future when I start my revisions.

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    1. Sara, so glad to hear you're planning on getting a copy. You will love it! As a left-brained writer, I use it to ensure I'm infusing emotion into my writing.

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  3. I love my copy! So much great advice!! :)

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    1. Have you not used it like crazy, or what, Jemi? It's useful in so many ways :)

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  4. Marissa, thank you so much for the kind words! I am thrilled that you are finding The Emotion Thesaurus so helpful--thank you so much for sharing how you're using it and what it's doing for your revising!

    *showers Marissa with Bacon confetti*

    Angela

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    1. Bacon confetti is a prime example of demonstrating the emotion of love through action, Angela ;) Can I offer up a bacon-wrapped hug back? Thanks for letting us post about the ET! #itsbaconworthy

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    2. Haha--yes to bacon-wrapped hugs! #baconisking

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  5. Oh, yum! I love seeing such a heartfelt endorsement of The Emotion Thesaurus from a writer. Lord knows I use it enough, but people expect me to say that, lol. So thanks big time for doing this, Marisa!

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    1. The value in the ET speaks for itself. Such a terrific resource! Thanks, Angela and Becca for letting me rave about it like a loon :)

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  6. I love this book, as well. I used it extensively to finish my first novel!

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Suzanne. I'm with you!

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  7. The Emotion Thesaurus is a complete WIN! I love it.

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  8. Love the book and this post! Emotion is the difference between real characters and cardboard characters every single time.

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  9. Thanks to this post, I ordered this for my Kindle! Can't wait to try it out!

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