3 Tips for Showing Character Emotion

Ah, character emotion. It’s one of the hardest things to write right. It’s also one of the most important. You can have a deep, complex character, a compelling, well-crafted plot, and the setting descriptions nailed down to the tiniest details. But if you can’t write character emotion in a compelling way, your book will be only half as rich as it could be.

second-edition21As you may already know, if you’ve been hanging around the writing world for a while, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers have just released a new book! So, to celebrate The Emotion Thesaurus: Second EditionI’ve compiled several tips I’ve discovered while on my own writing journey.

1. Don’t Resort to the Face

Many authors, myself included, tend to go straight to the face for signs of emotion. In my first drafts, all my characters smile, frown, and glare; their eyes shoot daggers and glisten with tears and shift away slyly. It’s true that the face does show emotion, but other parts of the body are equally good–or even better at it. When was in my Sherlock phase (if we’re being honest, I never grew out of it), I learned to watch people’s feet to deduce their emotions. Crazy, right?

unhappy-389944_640That’s not to say you can’t use facial expressions. When done right, these can be powerful descriptions. Take the following passage for example. I’ve read this book a total of one time, and that was two or three years ago, and yet I still remember how much this description stuck out to me:

[A] forehead with a singular capacity . . . of lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of bight fixed attention, though it included all four the expressions[.]

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


Just to be clear, I wouldn’t suggest actually writing descriptions like that (unless you’re actually Charles Dickens); the point is, it is possible to write good emotion through the face.

2. What is your character thinking?

Any good psychologist will tell you that there is a thought behind every emotion. It’s not always a conscious thought–in fact, unconscious thoughts and underlying beliefs are often more powerful. The Emotion Thesaurus (including the Second Edition) has a section all about thoughts and mental responses.

This isn’t something you do every single time your character feels an emotion. It also doesn’t have to be internal monologue (though it certainly can be). In other words, you don’t want a character who’s all emotion and no conscious thought, nor do you want a character who’s all thoughts and no feelings. That would just seem… odd.

3. Every Character is Different

Just because Ron Weasley has the emotional range of a teaspoon… yeah you get the picture. Every character will probably have a different emotional range. On top of that, some people tend to be very private about their emotions, while others spill them openly. And guys and girls experience emotions differently. (I hadn’t quite nailed this down when I wrote my first novel. You do not wanna read it.)

And, of course, different characters will express the same emotion differently. Just as a quick example, I have one character who tends to snap at people when he gets angry, but when presented with the same situation, another of my characters will have a full-blown temper tantrum.

The best advice I can give you is to get to know your characters. Showing emotion is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath every emotion and reaction is a history, a backstory, a wound, a set of beliefs. Of course, there’s no way I can get into all of that today! (Hint: Angela and Becca have a bunch of other thesauruses that talk about all that!)

Giveaway!

One last thing here: there’s an epic giveaway going on right now!

To celebrate the new book and its dedicated readers, Angela and Becca have an unbelievable giveaway on right now: one person will win a free writing retreat, conference, workshop, or professional membership to a writing organization, winner’s choice (up to $500 US, with some other conditions which are listed on the WHW site).

What conference would you attend if the fee was already paid for…or would you choose a retreat? Something else? Decisions, decisions! This giveaway ends on February 26th, so hurry over and enter!

Are you excited about the new Emotion Thesaurus?

Do you have any tips on showing character emotion?

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Cover Reveal: The ??? Thesaurus

I have a secret to spill!

For the last month, I’ve been part of a Street Team for Angela and Becca at Writers Helping Writers, who are launching their new writing book on February 19th. Because they are known for showing, not telling, they decided it would be fun to keep the thesaurus book’s topic a secret until the book cover reveal…WHICH IS TODAY!

If you don’t know who these amazing people are, you’ve gotta check them out! Many of you are probably familiar with their Emotion Thesaurus, which, not kidding here, was the book that singlehandedly helped my writing take off like a stick of dynamite after the flame burns down. (Also, I just realized that’s an oddly specific simile.) Not to brag on them or anything… okay, yes, I am bragging on them. That’s what I’m here for today.

Well, they didn’t stop after the Emotion Thesaurus. They published five more thesauruses, and they have even more that aren’t published. (Some of them are accessible online!)

It’s been hard keeping quiet about this (like, really, really hard), so I am THRILLED I can finally announce that The Emotion Thesaurus Second Edition is coming!

Isn’t that cover just beautiful?

This is a seriously cool book, guys. The original Emotion Thesaurus released in 2012 and became a must-have resource for many writers because every entry has a list of body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations for 75 different emotions. I read through them for fun. Did you know that showing character emotion on the page is one of the hardest things for a writer to do? It’s true!

And why is the second edition so special, you ask? Well, it turns out that so many people have asked Angela and Becca to add more emotions over the years that they decided to create a second edition. It contains 55 NEW entries, bringing the total to 130 emotions.

This book is almost DOUBLE IN SIZE and there’s a lot more new content, so I definitely recommend checking it out. And you can. Right now.

Preorder Alert!

This book is available for preorder, so you can find all the details about this new book’s contents by visiting Amazon, Kobo, Indiebound, and Apple Books (iBooks), or swinging by Writers Helping Writers. You can view the full list of emotions included in this new book, too.

One last thing…Angela & Becca have a special gift for writers HERE. If you like free education, stop by and check it out. (It’s only available for a limited time!)

Have you ever used the Emotion Thesaurus?

Share in the comments your best tips about showing character emotion!

My Honest Review of “Beyond the Circle”

Hey, everyone! After much recovery from NaNoWriMo, I’m back to blogging. And today, I’m going to give you my honest opinion of Ted Dekker’s newest adult series: it’s a two-book series called “Beyond the Circle.”

I did a review on the first book, The 49th Mystic, which you can read by clicking here. The sequel, Rise of the Mystics, came out in October, and I was so excited, I read it in a matter of days. However, I was… not very impressed (I’m cringing as I’m typing this). Don’t get me wrong: Ted Dekker is a brilliant author, and Rise of the Mystics is some great storytelling. But I wasn’t very happy when I got to “The End.”

There won’t be any spoilers in this post, but if you’re VERY sensitive to sentences that very vaguely talk about things that might could possibly maybe happen, then I’d suggest reading the book first. 😉

Now, I went into Rise of the Mystics very hopeful and very excited. The 49th Mystic was amazing and promising and, simply put, awesome! (The villain was pretty epic too!!) I’ve got no problems with that one. Rise of the Mystics, however…

Let me start with the stuff I did like.

The storytelling. Ted has a natural gift for storytelling, and it shines through in this one. And overall, it was a great story. The characters were complex, the protagonist had a great character arc, all that stuff writers are supposed to say about other people’s books.

The story itself. It’s a gripping story, minus the fact that the beginning is really confusing. It’s definitely fast-paced and has that traditional thrilling Dekker suspense vibe. I won’t tell you too much about it, seeing as it’s a sequel and the story is just a continuation of The 49th Mystic. Plus, I promised there wouldn’t be any spoilers.

My problem is with the theology. (gasp!) If you’re unfamiliar with the series, theology plays a huge part in the story. Characters quote Scripture right and left and have huge, life-changing encounters with God. Which is great. Because encounters with God are very real things, and Scripture is of course the Word of God, and thus it is the source of all Truth. Ted’s not denying any of that, but the way he started interpreting parts of the Bible made me wonder what he was leading up to.

At first I just stopped reading for a second and made a mental note about it. No big deal. But as the story went on, the problem just got bigger… and bigger… 

And bigger.

And let me say, I was NOT happy with the way it ended.

Green was better.

And if you’ve been in the Dekker fandom for any length of time, you’ll know that the ending of Green is something we Do. Not. Talk. About.

At first, it seemed like Ted was trying to present a certain truth from the Bible, but the way he explained it didn’t quite feel right. Sure enough, it led to problems later in the book. Major problems. Like I-can-literally-point-to-a-hundred-specific-Bible-verses-that-directly-contradict-you kind of problems. Does the Bible say we should love everyone? Yes, because God made everyone, and all human beings are made in his image. Jesus personally told us to love our enemies. But that does not imply everything else that happened in the story… which I will not tell you about, because #spoilers. 

So… those are my thoughts. I enjoyed “Beyond the Circle” in general, but I am definitely still upset about the theology presented in it. All in all, I was disappointed. It’s a great story, it had great potential. It could have gone amazing places.

As a side note, Ted and his daughter Kara just came out with a children’s series called “The Dream Traveler’s Quest.” I actually really liked that series, but it was literally the same story, and thus some of the same theology. They presented deep truths in a way that kids can understand – a feat I admire – but once again, I started to question their theology at the end. It did have a better ending than Rise of the Mystics, though, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Have you read “Beyond the Circle?” What did you think?

A Proper Fangirl’s Guide to The 49th Mystic

I am SO VERY EXCITED FOR THIS POST. Seriously. I would say Ted Dekker was my favorite author, except I’ve already given that title to J.R.R. Tolkien.

But, if you’re a huge Ted Dekker fan like I am, I’m willing to bet you’ve read his latest book and LOVED it. Dekker did a lot of interviews/video series about it, and in almost every one of them, he claimed that The 49th Mystic is the culmination of his entire career. As an author, I kind of brushed his statement off… because every book I’ve ever written has felt like the culmination of my career.

20180517_210247

But he was right. The 49th Mystic is truly something special. It’s not like his other books. But then again, it is. It reminds me of some of his older stuff, like the Circle Trilogy. It’s part epic fantasy, part thriller, part theological disquisition. And plus, the villain is pretty sweet. Like Marsuvees. ❤ ❤ ❤

(Why on earth did I put a bunch of little hearts next to Marsuvees’s name?!)

For the sake of everyone who has not yet read the book, this is going to be a spoiler-free post. However, I highly encourage you to stop reading this post right now and go read the book first. But in case you need a little extra encouragement, I’m going to give you 6,781 reasons that you should read it:

  • It’s reminiscent of the Paradise Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that it takes place in a small, sequestered town. We get glimpses of another world… there’s some magical books somewhere… and did I mention the super-fancy, super-evil, super-good-looking, super-amazing villain who shows up out of nowhere and starts taking over everything?
  • The way it ties into everything else. Dekker is a master of weaving different series together. You can read them independently, but it’s so much more fun if you read them all, because then you get the full picture! Also, The 49th Mystic made some connections that I wasn’t expecting. If you’d like, it might be interesting to read The 49th Mystic, Green, and Immanuel’s Veins all at the same time. No spoilers. Just sayin’, it’s a good idea.
  • It’s the long-awaited continuation of the Circle Series. Okay, kind of. The subtitle is “Beyond the Circle.” And let me tell you, it is EPIC.
  • The villain. Oh wait, I’ve already mentioned him. Moving on…
  • The characters. The main character is nice and all, but I like the side characters the best. I usually do, actually. Not to mention the villain. And there were some pretty awesome side characters here. No spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that.
  • The sheer epic-ness of it all. Dude, it’s a seriously amazing book! And the theme… the way the theme plays out, all the deep theological points, definitely awesome.

Yes, that was in fact 6,781 reasons. I counted them myself.

About the only thing I didn’t like about the book was that you have to wait until October 2 for the sequel. Two. More. Long. Months. To go. (And The 49th Mystic came out in May, so back then it was even longer.)

You know, I think it’d be fun to start an official fandom for Ted Dekker. There used to be one. They used to have an annual Gathering (no joke). But now? There are no memes, no fanart, no fanfiction, no cool merchandise. If you can find any of it, it’s a very rare treasure indeed.

But you know what? None of that matters. Great books don’t exist to have the loyal following of avid (and frankly obsessive) fans. No, great books exist to change you, and the truly greatest books point you back to God, to display His glory.

And I can say with confidence that The 49th Mystic will do that.

Have you read The 49th Mystic? What did you think?