Emotion Thesauruses describe emotions in helpful ways for writers. They are wonderful because they lay out how a character could be feeling or acting or thinking.


DEFINITION: Enthusiasm for what is to come

- Leaning forward
- Agreeability to whatever is suggested
- Offering suggestions to ensure the event is successful or runs more smoothly

- Increased heartbeat
- An expanding feeling in the chest

- Focused listening
- A positive outlook and thinking pattern
- A willingness to take on responsibility, help, or lead

But a list like this of easy copy-and-pastes is dangerous. Reading these, it’s tempting to write

He leaned in, his heart racing in his chest for what’s to come

This sentence is generic, and without any note reminding us this sentence is copy-and-pasted, it’s easy for a sentence like that to get lost in the block of text making up the chapter.

My Proposed Solutions

1) Placeholder method. When I’m trying to express a certain emotion and having trouble finding the words, I will use a thesaurus to find placeholders and I’ll copy them in as such, marked by the copy writer’s TK.

“As soon as someone leaves, we’re going in,” a character says.
“Right behind you,” I responded.
TK_Behavior:leaning in. TK_Internally:heart racing. TK_Behavior:eager to offer suggestions.
“I’m going to…”

This way I can better visualize the sentence, without setting it in stone. Next time I read this draft, I will think again what to write there, now with nice visual prompts. These placeholders allow us to read how our character might be feeling, thinking, acting, while causing us to pause and you feel what his unique experience is.

2) Use the thesaurus to evoke a personal experience in your past. As I’m reading the draft, I want to watch for a relatable experience, that you can get on the page.

For me, in this situation that I’m mulling over, I see how my character would be eager to make suggestions a little before this. He’s eager for what’s to come, but he still wants to control the direction of it. With that, I know my character might say something like,

“Becky is up there,” I suggested, knowing her and I always have great conversations.

That tells me so much more about my character than my original: “He leaned in, his heart racing in his chest for what’s to come.” We learn although he’s eager to see who they’ll eat with, he does have a preference towards Becky. If I now wanted to, I could stress this, and I could threaten that preference with someone he wouldn’t want to eat with. Instantly we have tension.

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Those excerpts were from Becca Puglisi’s “The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression”