Review: The Emotion Thesaurus

I’ve been slowly building a “writer’s library” and I added a new book this week, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglis. And I’m excited!


I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I ordered this from Amazon (thanks to my $44 eBook Antitrust Settlement I got it for free). When I opened it, I was overwhelmed by the details included therein.

Book Layout

There are introductory pages with some general writing advice and how to use the thesaurus. Clear, concise and actually very helpful. Then comes the actual thesaurus part. Seventy-five emotional words.

The Emotion ThesaurusEach individual word has two pages dedicated to it. In each two-page spread there are these subsections:

  • Definition – the actual definition of the word (duh)
  • Physical Signals (by far the longest subsection) – All the various ways an individual could show the emotion through their face and body language
  • Internal Sensations – what someone would feel physically while having the emotion
  • Mental Responses – what someone might be thinking during the emotion
  • Cues of Acute or Long-Term Excitement – what could happen if the emotion lingers too long
  • May Escalate To – each feeling could slide into these other emotions (with page references)
  • Cues of Suppressed Emotion – Pent up anger? Unreleased joy? This is what it would look like
  • A Writer’s Tip – general tips & tricks for incorporating emotion into writing

Why am I elated by this purchase?

  1. I’m deeply enamored with the English language. I adore words. And I consistently bring up to find new words, ones that imbue a scene with deeper meaning. They don’t have to be fancier words, just ones that coax a more emotional response from the reader. This helps with that and so much more.
  2. I am a writer. Truly, I am an aspiring author. I can’t just write dialog or describe a scene to get the right emotional response from the reader. A reader must feel right along with the character to achieve writing victory. And the writer must accurately describe the emotion, not simply say “Mark was obsessed.” or “Is Mary depressed?” – by their actions, words, and physical appearance a character should show the emotions the writer wants them to have…and the reader to feel.
  3. There’s real research in here! How many of us catalog all the above items when feeling an emotion? I know I’ve felt elation and gratitude and depression and even rage. But, I didn’t write down that elation was heightened from excitement, that my cheeks flushed, that I didn’t care what others thought while I was in that emotional state. When I was raging, do you think I cataloged how my vision clouded, the pounding in my ears, or the rush of adrenaline I felt? This book lists out all this and more.
  4. I might be a sociopath. Okay, that’s not true. But, I do write about them. And psychopaths. (There is a difference, people!) And I think this book would actually be a funny thing for one to have on their bookshelf. Imagine a scene where a girlfriend finds a book of emotions on her boyfriend’s shelf. He’s not a writer, an actor, a psychologist or any profession where one might need a better understanding of human emotions. She randomly looks through it and realizes every time he’s shown an extreme emotion, the details came straight from the book – nothing more, nothing less. That might make her wonder, right?
  5. The writer’s tips are actually helpful! At the end of each entry there is a grey box with an actually helpful writer’s tip. Some remind about overuse of description or naming the emotion because of a lack of confidence the description does a good enough job of explaining. I like this one below as it’s a reminder of why I’m using this book in the first place.
    Writer's Tip

Additional Resources

This is one of three thesaurus books the authors have published. They also have a Positive Traits Thesaurus and a Negative Traits Thesaurus – both of which I’ll be adding to my collection after the next payday. For even more guidance from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglis, check out their website Writers Helping Writers. They have an entire collection of thesauruses beneficial to writers.

Good luck and happy writing!

XO – T.

Update: After my little geek-out because AN AUTHOR OF THE BOOK commented below (seriously, I did a little “OMG!” moment) I went and checked out the resource she recommended, the Emotion Amplifiers PDF. This looks to be another wonderful addition to the library and brilliant add-on to the book. Check out their other writing tools as well –

About T.A. Babcock

Writer, artist, mom, special project manager, MS Office Goddess, beautiful dreamer, randomly eccentric lady. (Not necessarily in that order...)

Posted on April 5, 2014, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. angelaackerman1

    Terese, Thank you so much for the great review! I am so glad you found your way to this book, and I loved hearing about how it will help you. Writing emotion in a way that doesn’t feel flat is such a challenge, and you’re right–in the heat of the moment, we don’t think about what our bodies are doing and what we think and feel–it just happens. I hope this acts as a good brainstorming tool during the emotional moments in your scenes. And I hope you enjoy the other two books as well!

    I don’t know if you have it or not, but there is also a Free Emotion thesaurus companion booklet called “Emotion Amplifiers” which looks at a few things that “amplify” a character’s emotional response, helping you add complications, tension and conflict. Think things like Exhaustion, Attraction, Pain, Illness, Hunger, etc. You can find it on our Tools For Writers page. 🙂

    Happy writing!

    • Hi there, Angela! I’m not ashamed to admit I’m geeking out a little that you commented on here. 🙂 I don’t have the companion booklet yet, but I will definitely check that out today! Thanks so much and PLEASE continue creating these wonderfully helpful books!! XO – T.

      • angelaackerman1

        LOL, I geek out whenever someone posts about any of my books, haha! It is such an incredible thrill to know they are out there in the real world and helping people. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to review like this–means the world. 🙂


    Hi, Terese! It’s Angela’s other half, come to add my gratitude for sharing about our book. I hope this doesn’t send you over the edge, lol ;). Seriously, it is reviews like this that get the word out about The Emotion Thesaurus and its siblings. Thank you so much for letting the world know that it’s working for you. Best of luck with your writing!

    • Hi Becca! Yep, your comment sent me over the edge. So much so, I couldn’t write last night. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and for following me on Twitter as well (you helped me hit that 400 follower mark that’s been eluding me for months). I love connecting people and helping them find valuable resources and your book fit right into my personal mission in life. Thanks so much for writing and keep up the great work!

  3. Andrew McGlinn

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back at some point. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great job, have a nice holiday weekend!

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