Want more emotion in your fiction and less drama pinning down the draft?

If you are a fiction writer and haven’t ever used Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s writing thesauri, you might be really missing out.

You know that feeling of holding two things in your head at the same time? These books are serious headache prevention. (Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist. 🙂

I’ve written about the thesauri before:

The Reverse Backstory Tool Brings Your Characters to Life

Write Believable Heroes, Villains, and Emotions with The Positive/Negative Trait Thesauri and The Emotion Thesaurus

A Mini-M.F.A. in the Psychology of Character

Are you feeling it? Emotional Connection in Fiction Part 1

Tools: Emotional Connection in Fiction Part 2

And now there’s a new edition of the book that started them all!

(YES! Just in time for drafting my next book! Hoorah!!!!)

It might seem strange to not tell one’s readers what book you’re planning to release…unless you happen to write books on Show, Don’t Tell like Angela and Becca do! They couldn’t resist the opportunity to show, not tell, by waiting for the cover reveal. They even created a *REDACTED* cover for it, which you might have seen floating around.

We’re revealing the cover at long last!

*drum roll*

book cover for the second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus
The new and improved edition of The Emotion Thesaurus is coming in February 2019!

The next book in the descriptive thesaurus series is The Emotion Thesaurus Second Edition!

It’s been 7 years since the original Emotion Thesaurus hit the shelves. Many writers have credited this unusual book  with transforming their writing. This guide is packed with helpful lists of body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations for 75 different emotions, which makes it easier for writers to convey what characters feel.

Since 2012, many have asked the authors if they would add more emotions, so that’s what Angela & Becca have done. This new edition has added 55 more emotions, bringing the total to 130.

There are other new additions to the book and in fact, it’s almost doubled in size! I recommend checking out the full list of emotions (and some sample entries) HERE.

And more good news: this book is available for preorder! You can find it on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and IndieBound.

One last thing: go grab some free education!

Angela & Becca are giving away a free webinar recording of one of their popular workshops on Emotion, so head over if this is an area of struggle for you. It might really help!

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The Reverse Backstory Tool Brings Your Characters to Life

Guilded and white marble Roman Emperor with ermine cloak looks lighthearted.
This character is ready to walk right off the building. Statue of L’Empereur Romain on the front of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

Reverse Backstory Tool – Becca Puglisi

Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s Reverse Backstory Tool in THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS is the perfect way to jumpstart a new story or re-animate a faded character.

It’s not an eye-color checklist. It’s a way to discover the inside workings of your character that drive your story.

Take ten minutes to see what I mean. (Download it here.)

  1. Fill in:
    • the character’s inner and outer motivations Hint: what the character wants (outer) links to why (inner) he or she wants it. In a middle grade story, maybe Penelope wants to buy school lunch (outer motivation) instead of bringing it from home. She wants to stand in line with her friends instead of sitting alone at a table waiting for them. (inner motivation)
    • the positive trait(s) that will help the character achieve his or her goal. Penelope is CREATIVE and her creative problem-solving will help her reach her goal once she thinks of using her creativity in this way.
    • the negative trait(s) that will get in the way. Penelope can be INATTENTIVE, especially by lunchtime, because there are so many things to think about.
  2. Add the character’s:
    • wound–that painful happening in the past that made them who they are today. Penelope lost her lunch money twice and once a bully took it. Now her parents won’t send her to school with lunch money.
    • lie–that automatic belief that gets in his or her way. The character must overcome this lie to grow into the hero who will triumph. Penelope believes she’s not good with money.
    • Appendix A of THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS suggests needs and the lies characters tell about them.
  3. Feel the tension. It sounds hokey, but once you’ve filled this out, your character is fleshed out because you’ve found the inner conflict. Once you have a “want” and a “need” pushing against each other, the character is kicking and struggling to get out of your imagination and into action.
  4. THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS are fun and inspiring ways to find your raw ingredients. You can also find traits that will lead to built-in conflict in sidekick characters and villains. With characters like these, the story energy keeps building.

Does this sound too cookbook-y to you?

At first I also thought, “Oh, no, if all writers use these tools, we’ll all be writing exactly the same stories.”

Of course that isn’t true. If you’ve ever written from a prompt in a large group, you know 30 writers will come up with 30 totally different stories based on one writing prompt. If you’ve never done it, try it. It’s eye-opening.

Actually, these writerly catalogs free up my writer’s brain and let me riff at a much deeper level. They also make it a lot more fun.

Want another example? Read Becca Puglisi’s post for 7 more ways to use these excellent tools during drafting and revision.

Have you used any of these tools before? How did they work for you?

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Stories we tell ourselves

Recently, my husband and I watched a movie version of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “WHO AM I THIS TIME?” with Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken. Christopher Walken’s character, Harry, is so shy he only talks to women if he’s “in character” in a play. No one really tries to connect with him until Susan Sarandon’s character arrives in town with the phone company. It’s an endearingly awkward tale that shows how our internal narrative affects our view of ourselves and others.

It’s a joy to watch the characters in “WHO AM I THIS TIME?” give up the old “truths” and find a way to live that’s the envy of the whole town. This is a classic way to create an interesting fictional character.

The Reverse Backstory Tool is a fun and effective way to create a character who’s ready to jump into a story and bring it alive. It’s a handy bookkeeping tool for the relationship between the character’s external and internal goals, the character traits that will help or get in the way, and the lie that the character must disprove in order to win.

Click to download a PDF of the tool Reverse Backstory Tool – Becca Puglisi

I found another example of “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” in The Church at the Well podcast series. Kevin Fitton talks about “I’m Too Busy.” He connects the leisure time research of Professor John P. Robinson (University of Maryland) and Brigid Shulte’s OVERWHELMED to the Biblical story of Mary and Martha.

The “I’m Too Busy” lie has so much potential for rich characters. Harry acts out a version in the hardware store and in the theater. He uses his activity on- and off-stage as a shield.

What are your favorite stories where characters grow and change? Have you ever rooted for a character to overcome that blind-spot?

Source: The Reverse Backstory Tool appears in Appendix B of THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.