I have not read or purchased a new grammar or reference book recently, but rely on my old favorites, The Little, Brown Compact Handbook, Self-Editing for fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King and the Flip Dictionary (better than a thesaurus sometimes).
But I’m always preaching “feelings” to my students and editing clients. What is he feeling here? What is her reaction to this? How does sad (happy, angry, frustrated) feel?
I sometimes have to stop my own writing and think about how to describe a feeling in a way that’s not over-used, trite or clichéd. You can only have your character’s stomach clench a time or two before your reader begins to suspect he or she has an ulcer.
So, recently I downloaded The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Angela and Becca host The Bookshelf Muse, an award-winning online resource for writers that offers a number of different thesauri to aid authors in their descriptive writing efforts.
Their book is an excellent resource for prompting your creativity in expressing feelings. It gives the definition of a word, for example, “Anger.” Then it follows with a list:
• Physical signals, such as flaring nostrils or jerky head movements
• Internal sensations: such as sweating or the body heating
• Mental Responses: irritability or taking inappropriate action
• Cues of acute or long term anger: skin problems, ulcers, etc.
• Cues of suppressed anger: false smiles, sore muscles and jaw
I keep this handy reference on my Kindle for PC so it’s always right there when I get stuck.
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.