Book Reviews

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression (Second Edition)

“One of the challenges a fiction writer faces, especially when prolific, is coming up with fresh ways to describe emotions. This handy compendium fills that need. It is both a reference and a brainstorming tool, and one of the resources I’ll be turning to most often as I write my own books.” 

~James Scott Bell, International Thriller Writers Award Winner

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The Positive and Negative Trait Thesaurus Books

The Positive Trait Thesaurus

“I have long used the authors’ fabulous blog The Bookshelf Muse as a go-to source for on-the-spot inspiration whenever I need a unique synonym. When I heard they were compiling their wisdom into a book, I was thrilled! This is a one-of-a-kind resource for the writer. Offering synonyms (and more) for emotions of every stripe – as well as some sound writing advice throughout – this is just the sort of tome to have sitting within reach of the keyboard. A quick flip through the pages is sure to offer a plethora of new ideas and story possibilities.”

 ~K.M. Weiland, author of Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way To Success and Structuring Your Novel: Essential keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

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The Negative Trait Thesaurus

“In these brilliantly conceived, superbly organized and astonishingly thorough volumes, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created an invaluable resource for writers and storytellers. Whether you are searching for new and unique ways to add and define characters, or brainstorming methods for revealing those characters without resorting to clichés, it is hard to imagine two more powerful tools for adding depth and dimension to your screenplays, novels or plays.”

~Michael Hauge, Hollywood script consultant and story expert, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read

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The Rural And Urban Setting Thesaurus Books

The Rural Setting Thesaurus

“Another practical how-to book from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, this time to help you flesh out your descriptive writing of rural settings. No more driving out to the countryside to bait the bull so you can describe the shape, size and smell of a cowflap. It’s all right here, right down to the flies. While not a replacement for soaking up the atmosphere when you can’t get there yourself, this book will help you flesh out all five senses.” 

~Anna Erishkigal, writer

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The Urban Setting Thesaurus

“Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have done it again! I’m a huge fan of The Emotion Thesaurus and use it all the time when writing novels. One thing I didn’t realize until reading this book was how important Setting is in addition to Character Emotion. This book is part thesaurus and part workshop where the importance of setting is explained with many great examples to further enhance your writing. The sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of many urban setting are explored in this book and with its companion, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, cover locations to make your novel unique and memorable. This book needs to be in your writer’s toolbox.” 

~Kate, writer

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The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma

“Angela and Becca have done it again! Yet another valuable resource to add to your writing collection. I’ve been exploring backstory wounds for decades. This emotional guide adds depth to your characters, meaning to your plots, and promises richer, truer, and more stirring stories.”

~Martha Alderson, author of the best-selling Plot Whisperer books

“This is far more than a brilliant, thorough, insightful and unique thesaurus, this is the best primer on story — and what it is that REALLY hooks and holds readers — that I have ever read. What good is “writing well” if you haven’t zeroed in on the essence of the story you’re telling? This book peels back the layers to reveal not only where the beating heart of your story lies, but how to then get it onto the page. It won’t just make your writing deeper, richer and more gripping, it very well may transform how you see the world – it doesn’t get better than that.”

~Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

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27 Responses to Book Reviews

  1. David Irvine says:

    Hello, I have recently self-published two poetry books and nearly finished my third collection. Would it be possible to get a review from you guys? I loved this write up and purchased the “The Emotion Thesaurus” on Amazon. I have to say it is a very clever book and refer to it often. Thanks!!

    • Hi, David. I’m so glad you were able to pick up a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus. I hope it comes in handy for you :). Unfortunately, Angela and I just don’t have time to do reviews. We love to help others, but we can’t do everything that comes our way, and this is one of those areas where we’ve just had to draw a firm line. Best of luck to you, though!

  2. Lily says:

    Hi, I read the Korean trans. version of The Emotion Thesaurus.
    And I am turly surprised how you collected and analyzed all these datas.
    If can, I would like to hear about the process of collecting these information and how you sorted them.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi, Lily! The Emotion Thesaurus began out of a need Angela and I saw in our own writing. Our characters were always smiling, frowning, clenching their fists, shuffling their feet, etc. to show certain emotions. We wanted to figure out how to show emotion in different ways but didn’t know how. So we started making our own lists of emotions and what happened in the body when that feeling hit. We paid attention to our own emotions and what was happening when we felt them. We watched movies and made notes about what actors were doing when they wanted to portray a certain feeling. And we noted how other authors were expressing emotions in their writing.

      This is how we created the content. The entries in the Emotion Thesaurus are by no means comprehensive; we encourage authors to use the same techniques to make their own notes and add to the lists. We also encourage them to not use our suggestions verbatim, since each character is different and will express emotions differently; it’s important to personalize these cues to your character. In this way, hopefully you can use this resource to come up with ways to show your character’s emotions in fresh and individualized ways that will ring true with readers.

  3. how do I join your group
    Ive just published a book called “The cat with 29 lives” about my life and how ive survived 29 near death experiences
    I heard this is a good place to get help and reviews and Id like to get involved to work towards more visibility of the book

    • Hi, Howard! Congrats on your recent publication. Writers Helping Writers isn’t a group; rather, it’s a blog that provides writing tips and advice via posts. To receive notifications of new posts (so you don’t have to keep checking in), you can sign up using the box in the left-hand sidebar of the home page. We also have published a number of books to help writers with various aspects of writing; you can see what those are all about on our Bookstore page ( While we do offer practical help via these tools, we aren’t able to help with reviews and visibility, unfortunately. But hopefully you can get lost of help on the craft of writing here. Best of luck to you! We’re so glad you found us.

      • Pia Jenk says:

        I would be fascinated to read your book Howard, as I survived one near death experience, just one. How on earth did you manage 29?

  4. Thanks for all the GREAT information. I’ll check it out!

  5. William Whitney says:

    “The Emotion Thesaurus” has become a valued tool I carry with me when writing. These helpful descriptions not only help put flesh on bone on the characters, greatly enriching the story, but it is also an omnipresent reminder of “show, don’t tell” and acts as a teaching aid to drum that concept home until it becomes second nature. The breadth of description for each emotion gives ample flexibility so that I am not enticed to repeatedly use one description.

    • William, thank you for taking the time to write in and tell us how this book is helping you–I am so glad to hear that it is providing the right amount of brainstorming when you need it!

  6. sue says:

    My son gave it to me THE EMOTION THESAURAS for Christmas I am just starting to read it how do you find out about
    how to write about writing about things that happen in the past.

    • Hi Sue–so glad you are finding the book helpful. You can run a search on our blog here for “backstory” and then I have this post as

  7. sue says:

    My son gave me THE EMOTION THESAURUS for Christmas this year I am working on writing my first book and trying to get all the grammar stuff
    right can you help me

  8. Christy says:

    Wow! This book sounds like the saving grace I’ve been looking for. How do i get it in Nigeria? Is it available online?

    • Hi, Christy. All of our books are available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, and Kobo. The PDF can also be purchased at Gumroad. You’ll find links to all of the book pages at the various distributors on our Bookstore page.

  9. Jerry Doty says:

    I have written numerous children and youth musicals over the past 30 years. When asked if I would re-release some of the early ones, I knew going back into the studio and recording all the tracks & vocals would be cost prohibitive (originals are on cassette tape). So, I decided instead to write them as novels. It sounded like a simple task. But “show don’t tell” was driving me crazy. The more I read on the internet the more confused I got.

    When I wrote the musicals, I had a group of 100 kids and wrote character parts based on the kids who would have the main roles. I could simply write “Angry, stomp foot”, knowing exactly how that child would do it, including all the body language. Not so with converting them to novels. I could not just say “Amy got angry and stomped her foot” it just sounded lame (which it is).

    Anyway, I walked to the library to find a book that might help. I checked out “The Emotion Thesaurus”. As I began my four mile walk home walking home I started reading. In just a few pages “show don’t tell” made complete sense. Exactly two blocks from the library I rushed into a bookstore and bought my own copy. I have a lot of books on writing but only one that sits on my desk all the time. “The Emotion Thesaurus” is my #1 reference book. When I get my next check I will be ordering both the Positive and Negative Trait Thesaurus books.

    Thank you SO much for writing these and making them available to beginning novel writers like myself.

    God Bless,
    Jerry Doty
    Phoenix, AZ

    • Wow. What an awesome story and an amazing testimonial! I remember “Show don’t tell” being the first big light bulb for me as a writer. I was struggling with it, too, and one of my critique partners explained it in such a way that I finally understood what she meant. I’m so glad that our books were able to clarify this are for you. And what a great idea, to turn your musicals into novels. You’ve already written the stories; now it’s just a matter of turning them into a different format. Best of luck with your project!

  10. Shalin says:

    Hey, long time! I’ve just written a book review. Your tips were helpful. I’ve shifted to wordpress from blogger so it’s been a while.

  11. Kimberly Paulson says:

    I lucked into finding one of your books and I cannot tell you how pleased I was to find that there were the three of them. I was asking myself “this is too perfect, is there more than one?” thankfully yes there were. I knew right away I had to have all of them. I know they will be very helpful in the future. What a great idea for a book. Although I have been trying to wean myself off of paper books, I will be getting them in both formats. Sadly did not see the Emotion Thesaurus in paper form. Thank you for these great books!

    • I’m so glad you found your way to our books, and I hope you find lots of good writing advice and tools available right here, Kimberly. And fear not, we have paperbacks for all our books, including The Emotion Thesaurus. We actually find that we often sell more print than ebooks, so I think many writers still prefer paper for their writing craft books. You can buy the paperbacks through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository or any other major online retailer. Also, any bookstore should be able to bring it in for you if you provide the ISBN number so they can order it. You can find a ton of links to book retailers for these right at our Writers Helping Writers Bookstore:

      Happy writing!


  12. Charlie says:

    So glad that you guys have a website! After downloading your books to my kindle I was thrilled to find out that you have a website too! Thank you so much for the wonderful guides that have helped me become a better writer and to feel more confident about how I write. Thank you and I hope you carry on being amazing!

    • Charlie, great to hear from you, and so glad you discovered this site, because we have a ton of tools and articles that might also be a help. Please explore the site, and don’t forget the Writing Tools page! Wishing you all the best!

  13. Ellie Keaton says:

    I bought the kindle version of the Emotion Thesaurus – its amazing. In fact its so good I just bought all three books in paperback and am eagerly awaiting my delivery from Amazon. I found this site today, excellent resource. Thanks very much for all your hard work.

    Best wishes


  14. Suzanne Cowles says:

    I bought “The Emotion Thesaurus” along with other books on words for authors from Amazon. I use it as a great reference tool.

    Being able to visualize things, we all know a sad person on the edge of crying may pucker their lips. However this book also gives physical and mental descriptions of suppressing tears, allowing the author to write what is not obvious.

    Well worth the money.

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