The BEST Book For Developing Your Writing

emotion thesWe all want to learn to write better, yes? There are plenty of books out there that teach you to write better, write faster, do outlines, plot, structure, work on your prose, style and basically every other aspect of your writing you could think of.

But by far and above one the best book I have ever read that has actually helped me to develop my writing is, The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Pugsli.

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My rather worn, but well loved copy of the Emotion Thesaurus

Before I begin I just want to caveat: I have not been asked to promote these books. Nor have I received free books to review. I have paid for, and chosen to read these books myself. Therefore you can be assured this is a personal recommendation, because I think these books fucking rock.

The emotion thesaurus helps writers to ‘show’ not tell their characters emotions. It is full of useful tidbits,  like body language and what suppressing an emotion would do to a character. It’s the little details that count when creating characters, the twitch of a lip, the averted gaze. That’s what these books help you with.

I cannot tell you how invaluable the emotion thesaurus has been. Not only did it teach me ways of showing emotion, but in doing that, I learnt how to show rather than tell other things too, like action and description.

But I’ve already talked about the emotion thesaurus before, multiple times. So it’s not news I am a big fan. I also have their two other thesauri: The Positive Trait & Negative Trait Thesaurus

But they now have new books out too. The Rural Settingand The Urban Setting Thesaurus.

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Sacha has the full house of thesauri!

I love writing craft books. I’m a self confessed addict. These books are no different, I have the full house of thesauri and I can assure you, I’ve learnt a shit load from them.

I use the emotion thesaurus constantly when I both, vomit-on-the-page my first draft and when I subsequently polish my turd draft through bazillions of edits. If I had to pick one lesson as a punch line, it’s that, the emotion thesaurus has helped me to use body language to show rather than tell a characters emotion.

The positive and negative trait thesauri are more useful for ensuring I have well rounded characters. I use them when I create new characters in particular, because it gives me ideas for both the good and bad side of a character.

The two new books are great for beginners. I particularly like that each setting has correlating information about senses. I tend to forget the senses on a first draft and edit in much of that detail  in a second draft. I also like that each setting also has a section of possible conflicts. As a YA writer, I always need to ratchet up the tension, adding locational conflict in is one easy way to do that. These books are full of great suggestions.

For the two new thesauri Amazon tells us:

“Inside The Rural Setting Thesaurus, you’ll find:

  • The-Setting-Thesaurus_Sensory-DetailsA list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
  • Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
  • Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
  • Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
  • A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
  • A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings

The Rural Setting Thesaurus takes “show-don’t-tell” to new heights. It offers writers a roadmap to creating fresh setting imagery that impacts the story on multiple levels while keeping readers engaged from the first page to the last.”

The urban setting thesaurus has a similar layout, with 120 urban settings.


If you want to follow Angela and Becca, you can at their amazing website Writers Helping Writers.

If you already own one of their books – why not take a photo of you and your book in a novel way and post it on twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #myfavoritethesaurus to be in with a chance of winning a prize.


If you like writing craft books, why not subscribe to my newsletter to hear news about my upcoming release of  13 Steps to Evil, a non-fiction writing craft book that will help you master the art of superbad villains. Subscribe here.

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82 comments

      1. Hi ya you! It’s ok I know what it’s like. Just don’t stress out over it because it’s all meant to be fun 🙂
        I know you’re about and if you want to find something you know where I am! 🙂

  1. I have the Emotion one! I’ll have to have a look at it when my WiP becomes a finished draft and I start editing.

    I also love James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. I always refer back to that!

    1. oh my gosh so useful it’s ridiculous. Sorry I am a little behind with your posts – I am still trying to catch up after the bash while working to deadlines :S

      1. No problems, Sacha. We do what we can. I am very understanding in that respect. 🙂 The Bash was obviously a huge success. And an enormous effort! Congratulations!

  2. Such an informative post, Sacha! I’ve browsed a copy of the Emotions Thesaurus that a friend purchased and can second your recommendation (though I haven’t purchased it yet). I didn’t know about the other books. The one on character traits sounds interesting to me too. Thanks for the link to Angela and Becca’s website. 🙂

    1. Glad you agree 🙂

      Yep they now have a whole library of books – I maintain my fave is the emotion thesaurus BUT I have found the others equally informative, especially the traits 🙂

      Glad you like it – sorry I’ve not stopped in, in a while I’ve been drowning, I am SLOWLY catching up

      1. No problem. Blogging is time consuming. We just do the best we can and everyone seems good with that. I’m waiting for the quintessential post on how to effectively care for 1000+ followers. It gets overwhelming.

  3. Wow, I just checked Amazon US and “The Emotion Thesaurus” has a 4.7 average with 1,090 reviews. That’s pretty much impossible to achieve what with the Trolls out there doing all they can to lower averages and hurt authors.

    I just ordered it. Thank you for letting us know about this book.

    1. They are truly amazing. Trust me. I wouldn’t have sung their praises for no reason! I hope you enjoy the emotion thesaurus as much as I did. It really REALLY gave me such depth to my writing.

        1. lol, well, I mean I deconstruct writing a LOT, so it helped me I guess because I actively learnt using it, so maybe it depends on how you approach writing. But thank you, I am currently blushing at my computer screen! :p

  4. I have the Emotion Thesaurus in pdf and Kindle. Love the pdf version for linking to the page / emotion I want. I haven’t checked, but assume the Kindle has hot links as well. Just purchased Rural and Urban Settings. 😎
    I’ve learned loads from the first one–a real eye-opener! Great post, Sacha.

  5. Oh wow–thank you so much Sacha! I love your full house picture–that just made me smile so hard!

    And I am a bit blown away by the love you have here–you have no idea how it feels to know something I helped write is helping someone else. So I’m very glad these books have encouraged you to go deeper and pull the heart of your story onto the page. I hope this means your books will get into the hands of your readers more quickly! 🙂

  6. Sacha, thanks so much for the in-depth review of our books! I love the way you’ve tied them together so nicely—something for everyone :). Thanks again for your honest review. We hope these books help people a ton!

  7. Sacha and everyone, you guys are the very best. reading through all these comments has left me smiling big time. Very pleased you are finding our books helpful. I get a bit giddy when I think about all of you writing stories that will work their way to a reader’s hands, and that maybe I was able to help in a tiny way with that 🙂

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