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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, Reviewed


I promised my wonderful and long-suffering wife that I wouldn’t buy any more book until I’d read everything on our shelves. Now, here I am buying a new thesaurus after reading only 31 of the original 188 titles awaiting my attention. Why? Well my friend, Avril Field-Taylor, (she’s a friend, and she made me break a promise to my wife?) passed on a review of this book. Here's the link to that. It was the review that persuaded me to bend my knee and ask my lovely other half to bend the rules. Being the woman she is, she agreed, of course.
So, what’s this reference work like?
Well, surprisingly, it’s in the form of a thesaurus: novel, eh? There’s a short introductory section that provides a brief overview of emotion and its place in writing. A short article on avoiding common problems in conveying nonverbal emotion follows. And a short explanatory piece then explains how best to use the thesaurus. After these pieces come the listings.
Now, I don’t know about you, but perhaps because I’m a man and therefore emotionally challenged, I’d have found it difficult to come up with a list of more than ten emotions. So it was something of a surprise to discover 75, yes seventy five, listed here. For each of these, the authors have provided a definition of the emotion, a list of physical signals, the internal sensations experienced, the mental responses felt, cues of acute or long-term encounters with and cues of suppressed experience of the emotion. The final piece on each is a short writer’s tip.
The book sets out to enable writers to convey emotion in the time-honoured fashion of ‘showing’ rather than the easier and less satisfying ‘telling’. By equipping the writer with a variety of physical signs (body language), visceral experiences (the true and unavoidable internal responses) and degrees of response, the authors help writers to bring deeper feelings to the readers of their works. It succeeds in its stated purpose, by the way.
I shall keep this book beside me as I edit in the future, ensuring I create real emotion on the page rather than allow cliché and familiar expression to convey the feelings of my characters.
My thanks to the unknown reviewer and my great thanks to Angela and Becca for a super little reference book that I expect to improve my writing for years to come. I think it’s probably redundant for me to say I recommend this book, but, there, I’ve said it anyway.

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