Friday, June 22, 2012

The Emotion Thesaurus by Vickie McDonough

As we travel on our journey to publication, we may find tools along the way that help us reach our destination. These helpful items can include blogs like this one, workshops, and conferences. There are also wonderful books that may teach various techniques or offer encouragement. Today, author Vickie McDonough shares how one book has been helpful in her writing life. After reading this article, I ordered the book myself! ~ Dawn

The Emotion Thesaurus
by Vickie McDonough

As a writer, it’s important to continue to grow and learn. Publishers’ needs change, as do styles and what’s acceptable and what’s not. When I first started writing, books contained much more description but now, publishers want most books to start with action. I’m a visual person and learn best from workshops, but I’m always looking for other resources to help make my writing better and my characters more realistic. To show and not tell and to find new ways to say the same thing.  Well, I found a doozy of a resource.

For a long while, the Bookshelf Muse at has posted a Character Traits Thesaurus in the sidebar on the right of their blog. I’ve found this an invaluable writing tool. When I needed help developing Brooks Morgan, hero of End of the Trail, book 6 in the Texas Trails series, which released this month, I turned to The Bookshelf Muse. Brooks is a cocky drifter, and The Bookshelf Muse website was a big help in developing this character. Under the Character Thesaurus, click on the word “witty,” and you’re taken to a page with a whole plethora of information about that character trait, such as the definition, causes, examples in literature, and much more. This site has been a huge help as I’ve sculpted my characters—and it’s free. Please note: the Emotion Thesaurus has recently moved to a page of its own:

But now there is something more—The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression—the book. It contains a wealth of info about 75 characteristic traits. The list starts with ‘adoration’ and goes through ‘worry.’ Some others included are:

            And many more.
Maybe you’re wondering why you’d want to buy the book when you can get this information free at the website? Because the book contains much more information about the traits.

Let’s use Brooks as an example again. Brooks laughs a lot and is often amused, especially by the heroine’s actions. The Emotion Thesaurus describes ‘amusement’ as: “appealing to the sense of humor; to feel entertainment or delight.” That’s Brooks to a tee. 

The next section in the book is PHYSICAL SIGNALS and some examples are: 
  • Widening of the eyes 
  • A slack mouth 
  • Becoming suddenly still Sucking in a quick breath 
  • A hand covering one’s mouth           

Can you see how this book is a tool that can help improve your writing and stimulate your creative process? We all have our own favorite phrases to express things, but this book can help you come up with something new—something different. It can help you when you have writer’s block. 

Besides the Definition, each character trait also includes the following information:       
  • Internal sensations
  • Mental responses
  • Cues of acute or long-term __________(name of trait)
  • Cues of suppressed __________(name of trait)

Lots of interesting information, as you can see. And lest you think I have some personal investment in this book, let me assure you that is not the case. I just enjoy sharing useful writing tools with others. One more thing I want to mention about the website, besides a Thesaurus of Character Traits, it also has a Thesaurus of Weather Terms, Settings Terminology, and a Colors Thesaurus. Also, don’t forget to check out their archives for some great information from past blogs.

Whether you’re a new author or you have 50 books published, let me encourage you to never stop learning your craft. Keep improving and finding new ways to say something you’ve said before and be open to learning from someone with a new idea or craft book.

Click to reach Amazon.
Vickie McDonough is the award-winning author of 25 books and novellas. She is a past winner of ACFW’s Genesis Contest and a multiyear finalist in the Carol Award’s. She has been an ACFW member for eleven years and is the ACFW treasurer. Vickie’s latest book, End of the Trail, the sixth book in the Texas Trails series, released this month.

To learn more about Vickie and her books, please visit:
Texas Trails website: