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Study Up on Emotion

We all know there is a special magic found in books. In the telling of stories. It's why this art form is as old as humans, sustaining it's power throughout all of history. I think that's because of how it allows us to live a much bigger life. Reading allows us to experience places and situations that we may have otherwise never encountered in our own, more limited, lives.

That's the real magic.

To tether from that magic to us, is made out of emotions. Think of your favorite story, conjure it up in your mind, I would bet your feeling something right now. Words may transport us, but emotions make it real. What's the spell to create this magic for yourself? Well, the best spell-book I can think to recommend is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. This is a co-authored work by Angela Ackerman, and Becca Puglisi. Together they have actually created an entire series of these thesaurus-type tool-books. Personally, they are a must have in my collection, and The Emotion Thesaurus is the first in that line.

So what do they have to offer? An easy to comprehend and follow 'show don't tell guide'. Which is a pitfall of many writers. However, you also don't want your characters to always be nodding, smiling, frowning, ect. There are so many words that are more illustrative and therefore, more emotionally connecting!

Here's an example from the book, I have cut it down to only a few points, because these lists are loooong.


Feeling upset or disturbed; a state of unrest

Physical Signals and Behaviors:

1. A redding of the face

2. Throat clearing

3. Abrupt movement

Internal Sensations:

1. Excessive saliva

2. A jittery feeling in one's belly

3. Short, fast breaths from a tightness in the chest

Mental Responses:

1. Compounding mistakes due to rushing

2. Mounting frustrations that cause thoughts to blank

3. Anger at oneself for freezing up (negative self talk)

They go on from here to include other areas like 'acute or long-term responses for this emotion' and 'signs that this emotion is being suppressed'. Each of these segments in turn is followed up with writers’ tips and other notes. They have already done all the deep thinking for you! It's not just a tool of words and lists like above, they also take the time to do information segments on what you need before getting into the meat of the 'thesaurus'. One of these include covering the five vehicles to emotion: dialogue, vocal cues, body language, thoughts, visceral reactions. Out of these five, I honestly found the last, visceral reactions, to be the most unique offering. There are other, whole books, on subjects like dialogue and body language, but this internalized view? That's definitely a lesser focused on area. These are the 'raw and uncontrolled' emotions that trigger things like 'fight or flight' responses within the characters, and therefore, within the readers.

Overall, I cannot sing enough praise about these series of thesaurus-styled tools. For $6 on Kindle you can’t go wrong either. Think about the stories you love, and why you love them, then do yourself the favor and treat yourself to this book. I guarantee it will be just the spell book you need to infuse your words with emotions and invoke that magic into your readers.

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