We all want to learn to write better, yes? There are plenty of books out there that teach you to write better, write faster, do outlines, plot, structure, work on your prose, style and basically every other aspect of your writing you could think of.
But by far and above one the best book I have ever read that has actually helped me to develop my writing is, The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Pugsli.
Before I begin I just want to caveat: I have not been asked to promote these books. Nor have I received free books to review. I have paid for, and chosen to read these books myself. Therefore you can be assured this is a personal recommendation, because I think these books fucking rock.
The emotion thesaurus helps writers to ‘show’ not tell their characters emotions. It is full of useful tidbits, like body language and what suppressing an emotion would do to a character. It’s the little details that count when creating characters, the twitch of a lip, the averted gaze. That’s what these books help you with.
I cannot tell you how invaluable the emotion thesaurus has been. Not only did it teach me ways of showing emotion, but in doing that, I learnt how to show rather than tell other things too, like action and description.
I love writing craft books. I’m a self confessed addict. These books are no different, I have the full house of thesauri and I can assure you, I’ve learnt a shit load from them.
I use the emotion thesaurus constantly when I both, vomit-on-the-page my first draft and when I subsequently polish my turd draft through bazillions of edits. If I had to pick one lesson as a punch line, it’s that, the emotion thesaurus has helped me to use body language to show rather than tell a characters emotion.
The positive and negative trait thesauri are more useful for ensuring I have well rounded characters. I use them when I create new characters in particular, because it gives me ideas for both the good and bad side of a character.
The two new books are great for beginners. I particularly like that each setting has correlating information about senses. I tend to forget the senses on a first draft and edit in much of that detail in a second draft. I also like that each setting also has a section of possible conflicts. As a YA writer, I always need to ratchet up the tension, adding locational conflict in is one easy way to do that. These books are full of great suggestions.
For the two new thesauri Amazon tells us:
“Inside The Rural Setting Thesaurus, you’ll find:
- A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
- Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
- Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
- Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
- A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
- A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings
The Rural Setting Thesaurus takes “show-don’t-tell” to new heights. It offers writers a roadmap to creating fresh setting imagery that impacts the story on multiple levels while keeping readers engaged from the first page to the last.”
The urban setting thesaurus has a similar layout, with 120 urban settings.
If you want to follow Angela and Becca, you can at their amazing website Writers Helping Writers.
If you already own one of their books – why not take a photo of you and your book in a novel way and post it on twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #myfavoritethesaurus to be in with a chance of winning a prize.
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