The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

By Ekta R. Garg

February 13, 2019

Genre: nonfiction/self-help (writers)

Release date: February 19, 2019

Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, co-founders of Writers Helping Writers and One Stop for Writers, released the first edition of The Emotion Thesaurus in 2012. An invaluable resource, the book functions much like a standard thesaurus by offering alternative ways to express various feelings. In the book’s introduction, authors Ackerman and Puglisi extol the necessity of emotion to successful stories.

The thesaurus lists an emotion, gives its definition, then provides ways that emotion is expressed. Included are physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and the cues to identify when a character exhibits or experiences the emotion. With 75 entries, the first edition covers a wide range of feelings from “adoration” and “desire” to “peacefulness” and “worry.”

This first edition paved the way for more thesauruses by Ackerman and Puglisi, including one for positive traits and one for rural settings. In keeping with their mission to serve and help writers, the authors decided to update their original release. The Emotion Thesaurus, 2nd edition, brings back all the original material and so much more.

Unlike some updated resources on the market, the authors don’t recycle their material. The new thesaurus with 131 entries is almost double the size of the first book. Additional entrants like “dread” and “self-loathing” join the list. For the entries carried over from the first edition, Ackerman and Puglisi have included a new item. In the original, toward the end of each emotion entry is listed what that emotion may escalate to; for example, “impatience” may escalate to irritation, frustration, anger, or scorn. Page numbers for each of these other emotions are also listed as a cross-reference for writers.

In the updated version, however, Ackerman and Puglisi have added another line after the one about escalation: what each emotion may look like when it de-escalates. The entry for “impatience” includes a line that it may de-escalate to “resignation,” “acceptance,” or “satisfaction.” Again, cross-references are included to help writers round out their writing in the most complete way possible.

Unlike the first edition, this version of The Emotion Thesaurus also comes with a quick primer at the front of the book. Writers will find this little resource handy when they want easy tips about how dialogue can convey emotion and the importance of subtext. They can also come to the front of the book for help with brainstorming new approaches to familiar feelings or how to conduct research into their characters to use emotions to make them three-dimensional.

Ackerman and Puglisi talk about their intense desire to help writers, and the 2nd edition of The Emotion Thesaurus clearly displays this desire. Moreover, new writers and seasoned ones alike will benefit by keeping this resource close at hand when crafting their stories. I highly recommend all writers add to their reference libraries The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.