In trying to be a better writer – I have read a LOT of books that purport to help newbie writers learn the craft, or help seasoned writers get a whole lot better. A lot of books! Some of them were okay, some were a total waste of money as far as I was concerned (but they might be helpful to others – subjective subject is subjective!) Some however, were gold as far as helping me navigate my way through the challenges of writing fiction.

So I thought I’d talk about some of the most helpful books I’ve come across. Weed out the great stuff from the rest. Do the hard work dear reader (and presumably writer, too if you’re here) so you don’t have to.

First up is a book that I wish could be surgically attached to my body – it is that good. It is The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

If, like me, you find yourself using the same cues over and over again to show characters feelings and emotional states, then you need this book. I find myself reverting to certain actions repeatedly. Shrugs are a big one for me. Smirks (I love a good smirk). Sighs. (Oh, the amount of sighing my characters do in a first draft – it could up global warming a few percentage points if these people were real).

This is where this gem of a book comes in. The way it is organized is genius. You look up the emotion your character is feeling, and there is a list of physical signals you could use to convey that emtion. So, for example – with anxiety – there are signals such as: rubbing the back of the neck, crossing the arms, twisting a watch or ring, exessive swallowing, etc.

If you need to describe internal sensations from within a characters pov – there is a list of those too. So again for anxiety some of the examples given are: restless legs, feeling too hot, tight chest, increased thirst, etc. Mental repsonses are also listed. At the end of the page there is a link to other emotions that anxiety may escalate to – Fear, Desperation, Paranoia. So you can then go on to look these up if needed.

The idea of the book is to give you ideas, to help you think further than the body language cues and internal feelings you default to regularly as a writer.

Some emotions are easier to convey than others. I think most of us could come up with a host of visual cues to show a character is angry or terrified. But what about envious? Grateful? Nostalgic? Some of these things are harder to pin down – and this book has loads of examples to kick start ideas.

I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I’ve bought as a writer, and I can reccommend it to anyone wanting to expand on their ability to show character emotion.