Holy Freaking Cow!!! Why am I so excited? Because I have found another resource that should be in every writer’s toolbox. It is a book called, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression. I’d like to take credit and say that my super intelligent brain led me to this book, but that would be a lie. Instead, I stumbled upon it when I was trolling the blogs. Michelle Johnson, an agent with the Corvisiero Literary Agency, referred to this book in one of her blogs. Prior to her becoming an agent she worked as an editor and she’s an author herself. I felt that those were compelling reasons to check it out, so I uploaded a sample on my Ipad and after scanning it. I whooped for joy and did the happy dance. Okay, I was lying in my bed, hollering and kicking my feet up and down in a bizarre pattern. Thankfully, no one saw me.
This book ties the physical response to the emotional one. Instead of trying to convince you, I’ll give you some excerpts.
Mr. Paxton’s eyes were sad as he gave her the news. “I’m sorry, JoAnne, but your position with the company is no longer necessary.”
Instantly, JoAnne was angrier than she’d ever been in her life.
This is the improved version when you take out sad and angry and replace them with the physical response.
JoAnne sat on the chair’s edge, spine straight as a new pencil, and stared into Mr. Paxton’s face. Sixteen years she’d given him–days she was sick, days the kids were sick–making the trip back and forth across town on that sweaty bus. Now, he wouldn’t even look at her, just kept fiddling with her folder and rearranging the fancy knickknacks on his desk. Clearly, he didn’t want to give her the news, but she wasn’t about to make it easy for him.
The vinyl of her purse crackled and she lightened her grip on it. Her picture of the kids was in there and she didn’t want it creased.
Mr. Paxton cleared his throat for the hundredth time. “JoAnne…Mrs. Benson…it appears that your position with the company is no longer–“
See the difference and it also eliminated the telling aspect from it. So, how do you know what body reactions convey the appropriate emotional feeling? Well, the book tells you. If you want to know what anger is, then flip to that chapter and you’ll find the following list:
Flaring nostrils, sweating, holding elbows wide from the body, chest thrust out, sweeping arm gestures, protruding eyes, cracking knuckles, rolling up sleeves or loosening a collar.
The list goes on. But what if it is your main character, what would the internal responses be? Well they have that too.
Grinding one’s teeth, muscles quivering, pulse speeding, heartbeat pounding, etc.
For the most part, I’ve used these responses, but I hate to say that I have found a lot of telling instead of showing or the combination of showing and telling at the same time in my ms. For instance, Frustrated, Archer pounded the desk. That would be the combo of showing/telling and I discovered I used it when I was unsure of whether I portrayed the right physical response to what he was feeling. With this book, I no longer have to wonder. Isn’t that awesome? Doesn’t it make you want to rush out and buy the book or buy it online?
I think this is going to be one of my favorite resources. What’s your’s?