We all have our favorite non-fiction books that focus on the craft of writing. These books have helped improved our writing mechanics and have helped us create stories that are page turners, come up with three-dimensional characters, write emotional stories, and write settings that make the reader feel like they’re in the story. These are the books we might refer to from time to time when we need a little reminder, or when we want to take our writing and stories to the next level. They tend not to be the books you refer to each time you write a new story.
Many of the craft books I own fit that criteria. But in addition to those books, I have five resources I can’t live without whenever I start a new book or edit a project.
Roget’s International Thesaurus
This is no normal thesaurus, and the concept behind it is brilliant. With the typical thesaurus, you look up a word and the book gives you a list of similar words (synonyms), and in theory you just plug in the word and it makes for better writing.
Or does it?
Roget’s International Thesaurus does things differently. It is divided according to categories, which helps your writing become richer compared to a regular thesaurus. You can still look up a word’s synonym, but this thesaurus enables you to do so much more. It’s also a perfect resource for creating metaphors. Once you try the book out, you’ll never go back to the old format, again.
The Emotion Thesaurus
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression (by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi) is an outstanding resource. After a brief introduction explaining the various ways you can SHOW emotion (and what to avoid), the thesaurus breaks down each of the seventy-five emotions covered into: the physical signals; internal sensations; mental responses; cues of acute or long-term use of the emotion (e.g for adoration, it might lead to obsession or stalking of the object of adoration); what the emotion might escalate to; and cues of when the emotion is suppressed. There are also seven-five tips listed throughout to help you make the most of the emotions you’re trying to convey.
The Positive Trait Thesaurus
The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes (by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi), along with its sister book described below, is the idea resource to help you create dimensional characters that are unique. This helps prevent your characters from sounding the same from one story to the next. We’ve all read books from authors in which the only thing that has changed from one book to their next one is the plot (marginally) and the setting. This book will help you avoid being that author.
First up is a brief intro (that I highly recommend you read first) on various related topics, including: what is a positive attribute; needs and morals and how they influence characters strengths; the different categories of positive attributes; building characters from the ground up; how to show your character’s attributes; and when readers aren’t interested (common pitfalls in character creation.
The second part of the thesaurus breaks down each positive attribute into the following: definition, categories, similar attributes, possible causes, associated behaviors, associated thoughts, associated emotions, positive aspects, negative aspects (when the trait goes too far), examples from literature (and movies), traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and challenging scenarios for the adaptable character.
The third part contains various appendices with worksheets you can use to create the positive side of your character. You then use the worksheets in The Negative Trait Thesaurus to make your characters three dimensional.
The Negative Trait Thesaurus
The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws is another well thought out reference from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Its layout is similar to The Positive Trait Thesaurus, except the introduction and appendices have different information to the previously mentioned book. When both books are used together, your characters (including the villains) will be free of the clichés and stereotypes that often end up in agent and editor slushpiles. Readers will want to get to know them better and will keep reading your book.
When it comes to writing, I’m an organized individual. This is why I can’t live without the writing software Scrivener. Not only does it make my life easier when it comes to planning my stories (everything is one click away), it speeds up my editing time compared to what it used to be when I did everything in Word. I’m not going to go into more details about the software because Sarah Pinneo has already done a great post on the topic.
Do you have writerly resources that you can’t live without?
blog/website. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.