The coffee on the desk is cold. The doorbell’s ringing. Your dog is making those frantic whimpers meaning ‘I want to go outside and maybe pee on something’ has escalated to ‘Another 10 seconds and you’ll need a boat to get to the kitchen’. You are aware of these things, yet stay glued to your chair, your fingers flying across the keyboard. Not now, you think. Not yet!

Because you’re AT THE GOOD PART.

You know what I mean–the part of the story that can’t pour out fast enough. Your MC’s paralyzed by fear, the enemy is sure of victory. All is lost, and won, so THEY think. But not you. No, you know what’s coming next and can’t WAIT to knock the villain off his game and let your MC prove what he’s made of. But first, you need to imprint this moment of fear in your book. You need to make hopelessness seep off the page.

You start to type how your MC is cringing in terror and then stop. You glance back a page and shake your head. Somebody cringed in the last scene–can’t use that one. Hot, shuddering breaths? Nope, breathing’s already come up a million times in this book, so that beat won’t work. You need something different, something unique to show fear. His eyes widened? His face was a frozen mask? Pu-leeze. The POV police are screaming at the thought.

The joy and energy starts to leak out of you. The excitement that brought you here is fading. You can’t seem to find the right way to show the rawness of your character’s fear. Everything action you come up with seems trite or hollow or cliché.

Reality trickles in: the coffee’s even colder now, and the mailman has gone. Your fliers are probably out there on the step, about to blow away. And of course the eerie silence means your dog no longer needs to go outside. You sag in your chair, defeated by a descriptive beat.

As you leave to mop up Mr. Ruffy’s mess, you glance at the computer screen and think, if only I had a thesaurus of emotional beats.

And now you do: The Emotion Thesaurus. The list of emotions in our sidebar contain bodily cues associated with different emotions. Just click on the emotion you need, scroll through the list, and see if one of our ideas sparks one of your own. But that’s not all. If you’re intrigued and want to see more, check out the expanded and streamlined book version. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is available for purchase in a variety of formats through a number of distributors.

Also available is the companion guide: Emotion Amplifiers, a $1 ebooklet containing 15 states that naturally galvanize emotion and make characters more volatile. If you’re interested in further stressing your characters through the use of internal and external stimuli, click here to see where you can pick up a copy.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Emotion, Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Introducing The EMOTION THESAURUS

  1. Stephanie says:

    I had bought the ebook about a month or so ago but, I’m trying to get away from the laptop when I write because I can get side tracked to easily when I do research. I bought the book last week and it showed up today. Its wonderful! Thank you for all the hard work and I look forward to your other thesaurus’ in the future. 🙂

  2. Divine says:

    I got directed here from AW Forums. I’m more than happy I clicked the link. I am getting the book as soon as I can get my bony hands on it.

  3. Leah Banicki says:

    I am a big fan. I am in line to get my copy. Great work.

  4. JeanElaine says:

    If the book is half as good as this post I can hardly wait until May 14th.

  5. Sheila Good says:

    I love your blog and all the helpful information! thanks so much.

  6. Sheila Good says:

    Thank you so much for your blog! I stumbled upon it and have spent hours devouring the content! I am working on my first novel and your site is a God-send!

    Sheila Good

  7. Kathie Leung says:

    I would love to see something about being sly besides saying sly. Satisfaction doesn’t quite cut the mustard. I’ll keep looking but wanted to put that out there. ;0) Most excellent resource, too! I use it frequently.

  8. Eve Quinn says:

    Absolutely perfect! I was just rewriting/revising my first book and was alarmed at the rate I used “narrowing eyes” and “glares”. I thought I was better than that. Luckily a quick search brought me here and I can see the errror of my ways. Thank you!!!

  9. amy kennedy says:

    Ack! This is fabulous, I’ve already posted a blog about it and linked back here. Genius!

  10. An excellent idea! So much work has gone into this, it’s amazing. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it already. Thanks!

  11. Thank you so much, Heather. As a former educator, I’m always so excited to hear how these thesauri are helping students with their writing.

  12. Thanks for providing such a great resource. I’ve encouraged my creative writing students to check out your blog to expand their options for “show, don’t tell.”

  13. Alice says:

    Thanks a lot! This so great for inspiration ^^

    I also have a suggestion/request. Maybe you could make an entry about Drunk? I can never seem to find a nice, subtle way to describe it…

    Anyway, thank you again.


  14. Wow. That’s quite an endorsement! We’re so glad you found us, Zena.

  15. Incredible, fantastic, amazing!
    A fabulous gift of the written word.
    I salute you, your team, your families, your craft, your passion.

    A thousand humble thanks from South Africa, from a sometime poet, writer, businesswoman and full-time mother!


  16. Glad you found us, Morgan!

  17. Thanks Cat! 🙂

    Action how–like fighting movements, or were you thinking something else?

  18. Cat Torres V says:

    You’ve got an awesome collection of different types of thesaurus here! Thanks for sharing!

    Do you think you might also post an action thesaurus?

  19. Emotion thesaurus! I love it! Wow! The effort that must have gone into creating this thesaurus. Kudos!!

    This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. Will definitely be using this for future writings! 🙂

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting this! I’m going to share this with my creative writing students tomorrow!

  21. This is exactly what I was looking for! It will be so great for “showing” rather than telling in my dialogue scenes.

  22. Grumps says:

    Grumps said:

    I was directed here by one of my fellow writers at

    I can’t believe how much work has gone into each Thesaurus.

    Terrific idea–and a terrific resource for writers everywhere.

    Thank you.

    Wishes and vibes,
    Grumps. 😉

  23. Ane Mulligan says:

    This is great! I love the Flip Dictionary, too. It breaks out types, so it goes deeper than a plain Thesaurus.

    Thanks for this blog. 🙂 You can bet I bookmarked it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I learned about your Thesaurus from Nathan Bransford’s forum. Thank you, Thank you. I was thinking the other day how I needed different ideas, I was running low on them.

  25. A.B. Fenner says:

    I’m totally late to this party, but I am thrilled to find this resource. What a fantastic place to come when I’m tired of having my MC sigh or frown. Bookmarked it! Thanks so much!

  26. Kara says:

    Thank you! Now I can stop writing “He looked angry” and “She looked sad.” Eeew!

  27. Angela says:

    There’s a few new faces here! Nice to see everyone and thank you so much for commenting.

    Jenny, good to see you here! I’m glad you found you’re way here. Nathan Bransford is more than a great agent, he’s an awesome resource and the writer’s best friend!

  28. Jenny Keller Ford says:

    I found this blog through nathan bransford’s forum and I’m glad I did! I love this thesaurus you’ve put together and will refer to it often!

    Thank you!

  29. Angela says:

    The Emotional Thesaurus is awesome!!!! Thanks for doing this =)

  30. jonnyskoolz says:

    I love the visual thesaurus. It is absolutely invaluable, particularly as a screenwriter, but I feel like there is a need for “thought”, or some derivation of that.

    I’m continually using “mull”, “marinate”, “weighs on her heavily”, et al.

    I guess we could call the emotion: contemplate, consider, weigh

    It’s probably the most important emotion in visual story telling as it is a bit subtle, but tells the story of the protagonist “mulling” options and moving forward.

    I think it deserves more attention, the “mulling” process that is. LOL


    Keep up the brilliant work.


  31. Scratchy Paw says:

    Bow WOW! Thanks. It can get grolwy at times describing how two-leggers behave. Now I’ll have more time to chew my bone or wolf down a biscuit.

  32. Great idea! I will have to bookmark this so I can refer to it often. Finding new ways of describing emotions is difficult for me.

  33. Donna says:

    It would be interesting to see a kind of monthly round up of all your Thesaurus Thursdays. A kind of MadLib type of thing where people create stories from actions in your list, be they viable actions or something in true MadLib style. Why do I say this? Because I can just see someone out there reading this that’ll take your advice too literally and plug in action that doesn’t match the scene and then come back and blame you for their mess-ups. Hey, it’s the internet. What do you expect? Might as well beat them to the punch!

  34. Becca says:

    Thanks, Tammi! I hope it comes in handy.

  35. tammi says:

    This is such a great resource. 🙂

    I was so happy to discover it, I did a lot of this:
    • smiling
    • a light step, floating walk
    • humming/whistling/singing
    • skipping
    • swings/taps foot to an easy beat
    • shows patience
    • bright outlook (glass half full)
    • satisfied catlike stretches
    • bouncing on toes
    • bubbling laughter

    I posted your link on the Blueboard (message board on

  36. Inkblot says:

    Hoorah! Have been thinking of making one of these myself one day. Am pleased to see I can be lazy and pass the task to those better able O:)

    Welcome to the world of blogging 🙂

  37. Becca says:


    Glad to see you psychos will be hanging around ;).

  38. Ardyth says:


    I hate the way my characters are always scowling and glaring. *she says through clenched teeth*

    The Toasted Scimitar crew has found you guys too… beware. %-)

    –The DO

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