To do anything well in life, it takes great tools. “That makes sense if you are a carpenter or machinist, but I’m a writer. What kind of tools does a writer use?”
I’m glad you asked. As a writer, don’t you have a dictionary or thesaurus at arm’s length? You can’t always rely on your word processor to correct errors. These are tools. Do you have a style manual or other punctuation checker available, whether physically or an online version? These are tools. For that matter, the internet is a tool you may be using for research. Writers have and use lots of tools.
One tool I recently found missing from my desk is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. Finding this tool to put in my arsenal has been a wonderful experience.
This book lists emotions then gives you different words and phrases to prompt your writing about that emotion. Why is this important? Well, how many times have you heard “Show don’t Tell”? The book lists the ‘telling’ word and gives you all the different ‘showing’ words around that emotion. It takes work and discipline to rewrite sometimes but having a prompt helps writers immerse their readers into the feelings of your Main Character and the supporting cast.
Reading ‘she felt’ or ‘he was confused,’ gets old and you will lose your reader by overuse. Doesn’t ‘her heart nearly jumped out of her chest’ sound better than she felt? Doesn’t ‘he tilted his head and pursed his lips as he pondered her statement’ give you a better sense of confusion?
Here is an original paragraph from my latest manuscript:
Dee held her breath as she waited for a return text. Sitting in the tack room, concentrating on the phone, she willed that text to come in. Suddenly, the feeling of being watched crept over her. A shiver ran through her. She was safe here; she knew it, but the feeling persisted. “Oh, give it up and quit letting it rule your life,” she said out loud. Disgusted with herself, she still stared at the phone. Finally, she stood up and saw Marcus standing there watching her. “Oh, my goodness,” she said as she ran to him. Marcus folded her into his arms. Dee held tight for several moments. In his arms, the shivering stopped.
Okay, it sounds fine, but doesn’t this convey more emotion?
Dee held her breath as she waited for a return text. She sat in the tack room, concentrating on the phone, willing that text to come. Suddenly, her skin began crawling. A shiver ran up her spine. It was a sensation she’d grown accustomed. You’re safe here. Still the feeling persisted. “Oh, quit letting it rule your life,” she said out loud. Covering her mouth with her hand, she continued to concentrate on the phone. When she could take the futility no longer, she stood up, rolling her shoulders to alleviate the tension. Her eyes connected to Marcus’s who stood, leaning on the doorpost, watching her. “Oh, my goodness.” On wobbly legs, she crossed the short distance and collapsed into his arms. Dee held tight. In his arms, the shivering stopped.
I’m so happy I found this book, and I highly recommend it to all writers. There aren’t enough stars for its rating.