The Emotion Thesaurus

If you've been reading our Writing Reference Guides and finding out how to create fictional characters for your novels, you'll have come across lots of juicy info on the goodies and baddies of the chunky novels we all love to read.

The Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression is the brainchild of Becca Puglisi, a Mountain Dew addicted Florida writer and Angela Ackerman, her pale and slightly wacky Canadian counterpart. 

Their book, an idea-generating resource for showing character emotion, explores seventy-five emotions and lists the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.

This tool encourages writers and authors to show, not tell emotion by helping them to create unique character cues to match any emotional moment, including situations where a character is trying to hide their feelings from others. 

So where did all this emotional stuff start ... and how did these un-assuming ladies decide that they needed to write a book on emotions for writers and novelists who are creating fictional characters.

The emotional thesaurus for aspiring writers who are creating fictional characters


First Meeting

The two met in a sprawling online critique community, The Critique Circle, and when Becca’s hilarious tale about flatulent canines crossed paths with Angela’s scribble featuring a messy room troll, the two because fast friends and decided to take on the world together. Now, nine years later, they provide description help for writers and teachers across the globe through their award-winning blog, The Bookshelf Muse


Angela says, ‘When we first created The Emotion Thesaurus, it was a simple blog tool for writers who (like us) struggled with showing emotion. It’s very easy to rely too much on stock gestures like frowning, eye rolling, smiling and feet shuffling, which can make for boring reading. The Emotion Thesaurus provided lists that encouraged visitors to think of new, stronger ways to show a specific emotion.

Word spread about this tool, and soon our blog readers began asking for a book version they could access from anywhere, online or off. So, we decided to give it a shot.’

When Did You Decide To Self-Publish?

Angela had an agent willing to submit a proposal to publishers but she and Becca knew they would have an uphill battle convincing an editor to take on such an unusual project by two unpublished writers. 

Angela continues, ‘We still were considering giving it a try, but then we discovered that someone was pirating content from our blog and selling it as an illegal download. This made us realize that we did not have the years it would take to find a publisher and wait for our book to make it to the shelf. 

We decided to take the plunge into self-publishing, and released the book in May of 2012. In the first eight months it sold over 20,000 copies, and continues to do well. A university in Illinois even added the book to their Creative Writing Program’s required reading list.’ 

How Did You Do It?

‘Becca and I went the DIY (Do It Yourself) route, educating ourselves on what made a successful cover design, how to ensure our work was carefully edited and where to turn for formatting help. Rather than trust in a single service, we handpicked a book cover designer that came highly recommended, found a formatting goddess who could handle our unusual book format and approached a friend of ours who is an accredited editor.

Overall, it was relatively inexpensive for such quality service, and we could not be happier with the results. 

Luckily for us, when we jumped into the self-publishing pool, many others had done so before us, meaning there was a lot of knowledge out there for those willing to seek it out. While self-publishing a book may seem intimidating, the truth is that is isn’t hard as long as a person is patient and willing to put in the effort to find the right people. 

There are many companies out there who offer a package price for cover creation, editorial, formatting and uploading, but most are either unjustly expensive, or are outright scams. If I can offer one piece of advice to people looking to get into self-publishing, is it to be wary of people trying to sell you on a pricey “we do it for you” service. Before choosing any publishing partner, run their name through Writer Beware to make sure they don’t have an unsavoury reputation. 

The indie community is very open about information and knowledge sharing. There are many blogs dedicated to helping writers with self publishing, like A Newbie’s Guide To Self Publishing, The Writer’s Guide To Self Publishing and The Creative Penn blog. Sites like these help writers navigate both the ebook and paper world, figure out pricing, marketing strategy and the general nuts-and-bolts of book publishing as an Indie.' 

Choosing A Publisher

'After we took care of the editing, formatting and cover design, we needed to decide on who to use as our publisher. For ebooks, this is easy--a writer wants to have their book available on as many platforms as possible (Kobo, Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, Sony, iTunes, etc.) unless they want to take advantage of Amazon’s KDP Select Program.

We have not gone this route ourselves, choosing to instead make our books available everywhere, but this can be a smart marketing strategy for getting a book noticed. We recommend going through each of these platforms directly to maximize your royalties, rather than getting Smashwords to upload to the others for you (while taking a cut of your profit). It’s fairly easy, and each platform has instructions on how to upload a file that is error free.

For print, there are three options. Find a independent printer, order as many copies as you need and then hand sell your product, or use Print-on-Demand publishers like Lightning Source or Createspace. We chose Createspace, which is owned by Amazon and offers free ISBNs, meaning there is better communication between Amazon & the publisher should something go sideways, and Createspace comes with the might of Amazon behind it.

By setting ourselves up with Expanded Distribution, our book is available in the US, Canada and overseas. In our case, we sell a lot of print because our book is a writing tool, but many Indie authors do not bother with print books unless there seems to be a demand from their readers to offer a paper version for their fiction.'

The Challenge of Marketing

Angela told us, 'Our biggest challenge so far has been marketing our book. As any Indie author can attest, it can be difficult to stand out in a crowded market, especially one that is drowning in bad promotion. The last thing an author wants to do is join the noise pollution online of “Buy my book!”

This means getting creative when it comes to marketing, and doing everything you can to make your book discoverable to readers. Becca and I have chosen to not promote openly and instead do our best to offer other content to our target readership that they will find helpful and interesting. By giving rather than taking, we are seeing a natural flow of traffic to our blog where our book is featured.

People appreciate that we are offering help and not shouting promotion, and those who are happy with the book often share it with others. This allows Word of Mouth to spread, making the book more discoverable. If you would like to see a more in depth look at our marketing strategy as well as real sales numbers, just take a look here.'

What’s Next?

Angela enthuses, 'We love helping writers, and readers have responded so well to our blog-to-book adaptation of The Emotion Thesaurus that we have decided to do the same with some of our other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections.

This summer we will release a pair of books, one called The Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws and the other, The Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Positive Character Attributes.  

Each will be a brainstorming guide that focuses on either the positive or negative side of personality traits, and how both will help writers create complex and authentic characters that readers will love!' 

We can't wait to review their next book!


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