Do you have problems conveying your characters emotions? Do you find that whenever your character is happy, you simply write that they “smiled?” Does Sally (your main character) pout when she’s sad or yell when she’s mad? There is so much more to those emotions than a smile, a pout or a burst of expletives.
When I began submitting my novel to agents for consideration, I kept getting partial and full requests but then the rejections followed. The rejections almost always included something positive like (great plot, very imaginative, good writing, etc.) but often ended with I’m not connecting with the character. I couldn’t understand the rejections. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or how to correct it. But then one day, it hit me. My main character was flat; the emotions were not built up enough to make a reader want to follow her on her journey.
Now that I knew what was wrong, I had to learn how to fix it. So, when I was on Twitter one day and saw someone tweet about The Emotion Thesaurus, my curiosity was piqued. I told my critique partner about the book and she surprised me and purchased the book for herself and me (pretty awesome right?).
This book has helped me immensely and deserves a plug. The authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are both writers and together host The Bookshelf Muse, an online resource for writers.
I thought this book was all I needed until I recently discovered that they have additional books such as The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus. I’m currently combing through my manuscript and beefing up my character with the help of these amazing books. I’m hoping the rejections turn into more requests that turn into offers rather than rejections.
Do you struggle with writing about emotions? What emotion do you have the most difficult time tapping into?
Do you have any books that you refer to when building up your character?


Filed under A to Z, books, emotions, Writing

19 responses to “THE EMOTION THESAURUS

  1. evalinamaria

    I’m not a writer, I am a reader and I love to read about emotions.
    Great post, good luck with the challenge!
    Evalina, This and that…

    • Maribeth

      Thank u so much for commenting. I agree, I love reading about emotions and now I’m loving writing about them. 🙂
      I hope you stop by again.

  2. This is a awesome tool for writers. The other two books you mentioned sound like great resources as well. I’ll have to check them out.

  3. I have this book and love it. Also, thanks for the referral to the The Bookshelf Muse!

  4. Read&Write

    So true! I think, in the beginning, as we get to know our characters, we start out flat and go from their. No one should be ashamed of a “flat” first draft, it is what you do with what you’ve got that counts. Thanks for the post. I didn’t know about their other books!

    • Maribeth

      Thank you for commenting. I think we know our characters so well inside out minds we forget to let the readers know them as well as we do.

  5. Yes! Characters develop in some really basic ways but it is our calling to make sure that the reader can see what we see. I know I can use a little help with that. Stopped by from A to Z.

  6. I keep the Emotion Thesaurus at my elbow when I am editing. It is helpful when I want to make sure I am describing how a character is reacting to a situation without using the same words over and over. It’s a great jumping off point if I am unclear of how they feel. I have their other to books on my wish list. Maybe I will go ahead and buy them before I start my next big edit. Thanks.

    • Maribeth

      I think you might like the other two books just as much. They are all helpful in different but similar ways.

  7. What an honor to see the Emotion Thesaurus as your “e” post! I loved reading about how this book has changed writing for you, and all the comments here as well. And WOW, great crit partner!!

    Emotion is such a HUGE part of writing a compelling book, and so difficult to convey sometimes. I’m so glad that you’re able to get some brainstorming help from the book so you can get right back to the important stuff: writing that story!

    I hope you find the two other books just as helpful. They are built for anyone who struggle with character creation, and for people who want to understand what motivates their characters. 🙂

    Happy writing!


    • Maribeth

      Wow what an honor to have one of the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus stop by. How neat. I love these books. Thank you for helping and inspiring authors.

  8. I knew I would be rewarded when I found your blog during the #hallenge. This first post since ‘following you’ is proof of that. Thanks for the great information.

    • Maribeth

      Aah Stepheny comments like this brighten my day. I’m hoping to become a Gardner after reading your blog 😃😃

  9. I’ve had a hard time writing emotions or emotional scenes convincingly, or at all, until relatively recently. At least I can blame that on how my brain is wired and not on being a crummy writer, since people with my condition tend to have a more difficult time expressing and reading emotions. I also was afraid that my writing would seem corny, pretentious, forced, artificial, if I wrote a really emotional scene or reaction. The key is to find a way to genuinely write emotions that fits with your own voice and style. The way other writers depict emotions might seem really fake and like purple prose if I attempted that style.


    Thank you so much for including The Emotion Thesaurus in the A-Z challenge, Maribeth. What a nice surprise! We’re always so excited to see that our book is helping others in the way we hoped it would. Best of luck with your writing!

    • Maribeth

      Having the both authors of The Emotion Thesaurus comment on my blOg post is a definite highlight of my week. Your book is very helPful and I hope a few more people purchase it because they saw it mentioned here. 🙂

  11. This is an awesome find. I’m not a story writer, but as a blog writer I can completely understand the desire to connect more with one’s audience and developing “more full” characters. I will have to check out the emotion thesaurus. Thanks!

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