I’ve called books “intense” before, like Genesis by Brendan Reichs and Glimmerby Phoebe Kitanidis, but The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey takes the cake. It is about the end of the world, so…how could it not be really intense? If you saw the movie, you’d know what I mean. The book is more intense than the movie, if that’s possible, despite its picture-less medium, because of the world-building, character, style, and plot construction. Basically, it’s a really well written book, and definitely one for an adrenaline-junkie reader like me. And I found it for $3.98 with free shipping!
After the 1st wave [of alien invasion], only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
What’s The Deal?
On BetterWorldBooks.com, you can get a used paperback copy in very good condition for $3.98 with free shipping!
Who Would Like The Fifth Wave, And Why?
As I said, the “world building,” or Yancey’s ability to make such a wild, destitute state seem real, is thorough and vivid. Cassie is a fully flawed but vibrant character, so it’s not hard to follow her through her really rough journey. The story is told with style, and every scene contributes tightly and succinctly to the advancement of the plot. It takes real skill for a writer to be able to do all of those things AND make a book as intense as The Fifth Wave, so my hat goes off to Yancey. Anyone who likes nail-biting, heart-pounding reads will like The Fifth Wave.
That being said, there is a fair amount of the depiction of death, as you can imagine, so the faint of heart should not read this book. I can’t provide you with exact “nutrition fact” numbers of that or the swearing, positive themes, or negative themes because I only have a physical copy of this book and didn’t underline all of those things when I read it. I’d have to go back and read it again, underlining as I go, which I’m willing to do…when I get more time.
If you’ve been writing fiction for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series of books. They’re books that were originally written to help screenwriters improve their craft, but became quite popular among writers of many creative disciplines because they provide a very accurate, concise, and some would even say easy plot model. As you know, constructing a plot from nothing can be difficult. These books, especially the first one, provide a way to do so without inducing paralyzing anxiety. I dare say that they’re a necessity for every writer who wants to get published.
What’s In Save the Cat?
In Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need, Snyder describes 15 “beats” or benchmarks that every plot needs to have, no matter the medium it’s displayed in. Whether words or moving pictures are used to tell a story, it should always start with an opening image and progress through
Break Into Two
Fun and Games
Bad Guys Close In
All is Lost
Dark Night of the Soul
Break Into Three
All of these benchmarks—aptly described in the book—should lend themselves towards showing the main character doing something, being proactive. This could mean saving a cat, going with Hagrid to Hogwarts and leaving a known life behind, or undergoing a makeover to become an undercover beauty queen. It’s the essence that defines who the hero is and makes the reader like him or her.
For that, you get not only wonderfully practical descriptions of each of those beats, but also:
the four elements of every winning logline
why your hero must serve your idea
how to use a plot board
how to get back on track with proven rules for plot repair
a checklist to see if your main character needs more “oomph.”
Who Would Like Save the Cat, And Why?
As mentioned, anyone who’s serious about writing The Greatest Book of All Time. It’s designed, Snyder says, primarily for writers who intend to pitch/query agents in mainstream movie-making and publishing. I think that’s because it’s based on the premise that you’ll use one- to two-sentence descriptions of each of those beats to pitch to agents. Although there are many, many plot models out there—three-act structure, hero’s journey, dramatica, etc.—this is the one I’ve found to be the easiest and smoothest. It’s a compromise between totally outlining and just “pantsing” it: enough structure (and the right kind of it) to get your story started, but not so much that it overwhelms your creativity before you even start writing a book. It’s also very helpful in showing the main character proactively progressing through the book’s plot, not just reacting to various crises.
Oh, so much to say about The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness! Anyone who loves really intense reads with lots of voice will love this book. Let’s start with first things first:
What Is The Knife of Never Letting Go About?
Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
Who Would Like The Knife, And Why
As mentioned, anyone who likes really intense books with lots of style and strong characters. This book has some tremendous strengths. The characterization of Todd Hewitt, the main character, is so skillfully accomplished, for one thing. We’re are able to understand a lot about him and his world simply by the way he speaks, his flashbacks, and his reactions to the few other characters that make up his existence during this book. There are so few books with good characterization these days that to find this was a treat.
And the plot is nail-bitingly intense, kind of like Glimmer, yet well-paced, like Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall. It can be really tricky to portray a realistic, relatable main character without slowing down the plot. It can also be really tempting to construct the plot entirely out of life-and-death situations to keep up the breakneck speed. But there are calmer, more philosophical moments that balance the intensity.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of things that I really didn’t like about The Knife that kept me from giving it a resounding 10 out of 10 stars. There was one point in the book that felt a little unrealistic to me, but I won’t specify which for spoilers’ sake. Most of all, though, the ending did not work for me. Though it did resolve the central conflict, it was completely unexpected and unsatisfactory. It was a total cliffhanger. Of course, I did fall for it, and immediately went out and bought the second book. Thankfully, I really enjoyed both the second and third books in this trilogy.
Violence (from CommonSenseMedia.org): “Lots, and quite grim and gruesome, including a man who has part of his face torn off, a man who beats and stabs a boy, a dog killed by breaking its back, children killing, and a girl shot in the belly. There are many injuries with realistic consequences, and many deaths. One especially gruesome climactic fight involves breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood.”
Positive themes: 0
Negative themes (sexism, violence is the way to solve everything): 2
Have you ever heard a book described as “crisp?” For some reason, that’s the adjective that first comes to mind when I think of Whisper by Lynette Noni. It’s suspenseful and a little bit scary, not fast-paced enough to be called “brisk,” but nail-biting and tense, with a narrative style that moves you quickly through the story. I recommend it for fans of suspense, fantasy, and science fiction books, as it has elements that will definitely satisfy all of those groups.
“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me.
I believed them. That was my mistake.
There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.
I’m different…an anomaly…a monster.
For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six-Eight-Four — ‘Jane Doe’ — has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.
As Jane’s resolve begins to crack under the influence of her new — and unexpectedly kind — evaluator, she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, discovering that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot … and one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.
Reading a classic book is not the same as reading something published relatively recently. You go in with different expectations, and sometimes maybe even with a sense of obligation: “I’ve got to read this book so I can sound like I’m well-read” or “I’ve got to read it for a class.” I challenge you to read a classic book of your own free will and choice at least once a year. It’ll be like looking back through time, a way of gaining a “multi-generational awareness.” It can be quite fascinating. Case in point? Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s a fascinating story, not just because it’s 200 years old.
At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but, upon bringing it to life, recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature he created turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. [It was] an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only [because it] tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever
The styles of storytelling have definitely changed in the almost 200 years since this book’s original publication; it was almost 100% narrative, which got tedious. But there is definitely more to the tale of Frankenstein that I’d originally thought.
You know we all have stories to tell, right? Everyone has had an experience or experiences in their life that could be written into a story or book, whether it be memoir, self-help, fiction, etc. Yes, about a million books are published every year in the United States, but I’ll bet that there a billion more waiting to be told. Personally, I’d like to read them all! And I have a few to tell myself. These aren’t just the fiction stories I’ve been writing and telling you about. These are things I’ve lived through and know that others are experiencing as well. One of my stories is about infertility. And I’m telling it to you now that it has a happy ending, so that I can help others who are currently going through it.
My Infertility Story
Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Jamie and her wonderful husband Bruce. They had worked hard to build a stable and happy home that they could bring their children into. They had hope that they would have two or three children, but began trying and nothing happened. They tried for a year and nothing happened. Her doctor said she shouldn’t be concerned until a year had passed, so at the end of that year, she saw her family practitioner, who referred her to an OB/GYN. This OB/GYN claimed to know how to treat infertility, but just put her on clomid (an ovulation regulation drug), did a simple test to make sure her fallopian tubes were functioning properly, and sent her on her way. Nothing happened for another year and a half, except more disappointment. Jamie could tell that what the OB/GYN had prescribed wasn’t working, and that she and Bruce needed to change doctors, but there weren’t that many doctors specializing or board-certified in infertility at the time, and it was difficult to tell who they should switch to.
On the recommendation of a friend from Bruce’s work, though, they finally found a doctor who specialized in infertility. This doctor was a bear of a man, tall, big, and bald, except for a very bushy beard, and his practice was a bit unorthodox, but he immediately ran several tests on Jamie that showed she had endometriosis, corpus luteal phase defect, and a hostile cervix. Jamie and Bruce were very happy to get those diagnoses because with each one came a specific treatment and course of action. Within a month of having laporoscopic surgery to remove the endometrial scar tissue, taking more drugs, and doing artificial insemination, Jamie was pregnant!
For as difficult as it had been for her to get pregnant, her pregnancy was very easy. She had no morning sickness, very little energy loss, and nine months later, she delivered (by emergency c-section) a healthy baby boy. And for a time, everything was wonderful, even though that baby boy didn’t sleep.
But when he turned a year old, and she began to wean him from breastfeeding, she began experiencing drastic bouts of insomnia. This was different than the nights she hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after getting up with her baby several times. This was not being able to fall asleep at all until the wee hours of the morning, no matter how the baby slept. This was waking up several times a night for no reason, multiple nights a week.
After two or three weeks of surviving on 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, Jamie went to see the doctor who had helped her and Bruce get pregnant. He immediately referred her to a psychologist and a sleep clinic. The psychologist didn’t know how to treat insomnia, but the sleep clinic doctor diagnosed her with Restless Leg Disorder and Excessive Limb Movement Disorder, neither of which totally explained why she was having such drastic sleep problems. He told her she would likely have these sleep problems the rest of her life, and prescribed Ambien to her. Well-meaning friends and family also suggested she take melatonin and diphenhydramine, all of which she did. They helped, but the bad insomnia didn’t go away. Jamie met with a couple of other specialists, but they didn’t change anything, not willing to mess with the hormone treatments she was taking to control her endometriosis, which is usually a life-long condition.
This went on for a year and a half. Finally, in complete desperation, Jamie felt prompted to visit a new doctor, a female family doctor who had just opened a practice in Provo, Utah. That doctor ran several blood tests that showed that some of Jamie’s hormones were way out of wack, despite her hormone treatment. So the doctor told her to stop taking everything. Jamie did. Within a few weeks, the horrible, soul-crushing insomnia was gone. Needless to say, Jamie and Bruce were both very thankful for this new doctor.
After a few months, Jamie and Bruce began trying to have a second child. By this time, Jamie was 36 years old. They took the same course of treatment that they’d taken to get pregnant with their first child, given her diagnoses, but it didn’t work. They did it two or three more times, without success. They knew they needed to see another infertility doctor, but the one who had helped them get pregnant the first time had been convicted of prescription fraud and was no longer able to practice in Utah. They had friends and neighbors who had had successful treatments at a nearby university clinic, where, reportedly, the top infertility experts in the state practiced. They made an appointment, although they had to wait several months to get in because of the experts’ long waiting list. During that time, Jamie painstakingly assembled all the medical records pertaining to her infertility treatment thus far, and sent it to the expert they’d be seeing.
He didn’t read it. Based upon a cursory scan of her records and Jamie and Bruce’s initial consult with him, he prescribed several more rounds of artificial insemination. Knowing they wouldn’t work because they only addressed one of Jamie’s infertility diagnoses, they went through a couple of unsuccessful rounds, and then decided to switch doctors. The family practitioner who had ended Jamie’s insomnia did not have expertise in infertility, but she did refer them to a specialist at an Orem, Utah hospital. This doctor, just listening to Jamie’s long infertility history, immediately recommended an ultrasound. That ultrasound was done, and it was apparent to Jamie just by the look on the radiologist’s face during the procedure that something was obviously wrong. She got a call from the doctor who’d recommended the ultrasound saying that they’d found what looked like some big cysts, one of which had striations on it that might indicate cancer.
He referred her to a reproductive oncologist, who she saw immediately. Upon a physical examination, he could tell that Jamie had much more than just a cyst. One was probably a certain kind of large tumor, he said, and he was even able to twist Jamie’s insides around so that she could feel the tumor through the skin of her belly. She was immediately scheduled for surgery.
Upon recovery from that surgery–called a salpingo-oopherectomy, she learned that she indeed had a large tumor, called a cystadenoma, that had grown to 13 centimeters in diameter (about the distance from her wrist to the end of her pinky finger) in her right ovary. The tumor was benign, thank goodness, but shaped like a large, flat, sharp-edged disc, so it had necessitated the removal of that ovary and its accompanying fallopian tube. Despite an allergy to morphine being discovered during her recovery from that surgery, she recovered quickly, and she and Bruce were once again grateful that a problem had been once again been found and fixed.
A few months later, they met with a doctor at an IVF clinic. They were hopeful that they would once again be able to conceive, but Jamie now had three diagnoses, one less ovary and fallopian tube, and was 38 years old. This doctor did one IVF procedure, which failed, then told Jamie and Bruce not to waste their money on any more procedures, as they were unlikely to work.
While grateful for the one child they had been able to conceive and for those doctors that had helped her on her journey, they were devastated. They began the process of letting go of the hope they’d had for a couple more children, which felt to Jamie like grieving, and focused on making the most of every day with their son and good sleep. Those were, after all, huge blessings.
And then, six months later, completely on their own, Jamie and Bruce conceived another child. Five and a half years after their first child was born, their second and last child joined their family. He was truly a miracle.
Today, Jamie and Bruce have two boys: a 15-year-old and a nine-year-old. They’re extremely grateful for the lessons they learned during their infertility journey, which are:
Realize that not all doctors are created equal. Do your research about effectiveness rates, board certifications (if any), years of experience, etc.
Be an informed patient. Read as much as you can from credible sources (i.e., not just random websites) about your symptoms, and make lists of questions to ask your doctor. Don’t expect them to be able to work magic with nothing but: “I can’t conceive.”
Do your research about insurance coverage as well. These days, medical insurance rarely covers most of the serious infertility procedures. Were it not for the $26,000 in infertility insurance coverage that Bruce and Jamie received from his employer at that time, their first child would not have been conceived. Consider seeking work at a company that provides infertility insurance coverage, if you don’t already have it.
Be grateful for what you have, even in the face of loss. This is perhaps the most crucial lesson of all, and maybe the hardest one to do. Even if you feel excluded from the “mommy club” through no fault of your own, there is always much to be thankful for. Every night of good sleep you get. Every kiss from your loving husband. Maple donuts. Mountains. Books. Health. Cheesecake Factory. Whatever it takes.
Get help, if you need it, whether that be mental health treatment, talking about your struggles with friends who will understand, both online and in the real world. This is not a trial to be handled alone.
Jamie’s story–my story–is only one of many. In my neighborhood, ten other women went through infertility the same time that I did, and they now all have children. My niece, Jenica Parcell of ASliceofStyle.com, experienced it, and she now has twins. About 1.5 million women in the U.S. are currently experiencing it. Jenica became part of a group that raises money for those 1.5 million women, so that some of them can get the assistance they need to fund:
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET)
BundledBlessingsFertility.com is now accepting grant applications from couples currently experiencing fertility who need help paying for the expensive procedures they need to gain the blessing of parenthood. They have been raising money, and now want to make sure the money they’ve raised goes to the people who need it. They need help getting the word out! I told my story so that they can hopefully have a happy ending to their infertility stories. Spread the word!
It’s been an interesting week, with school shopping, some family drama, friends having drastic problems, and a bunch of job interviews. And it seems that the closer we get to the school year starting, the more time speeds up! I’m not quite ready! I mean, I’m excited, but not ready yet! In the meantime, I just finished a novella called Survival by Rachel Watts. It’s a post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-ish kind of book, and a compelling read.
What Is Survival About?
The world has suffered economic collapse and multiple environmental crises. In a flooded city, Ava Murasaki is searching for her activist sister Sophia. Meanwhile, Valerie Newlin lives in the secure complex of the Scylla Corporation, the world’s only remaining multinational. There, she finds evidence of something horrifying in the Corporation medical research data. Set in a searingly real near-future, Survival is a story of what people will face for those they love. This is a devastating vision of a post-climate change world in which governments have collapsed and corporations rule with an iron fist.
It takes place in a flooded city where a dam failed five years ago and there wasn’t enough left of the government to clean up the mess. So some people moved to higher ground, but most just built shanties and docks on the water and took over the office towers that had once housed businesses but whose lower floors were now permanently submerged. And in the middle of the squalor sits a giant corporate complex on dry land, walled off and impenetrable, a city unto itself.
Although it’s this dichotomy that should drive the conflict of the book, it’s more about the dynamic between Valerie, a corporate scientist who discovers an awful secret about the corporation and wants to reveal it to everyone, and Ava, a young woman from the outside trying to find her sister. Their paths cross, their goals align somehow, and they have to work together to infiltrate and bring down the corporation.
Who Would Like Survival, And Why?
If you like dystopian books, you might like this book, but it’s not the dystopia of books like Matched by Ally Condie or Shatter Meby Tahereh Mafi. There is no romance or heavy-handed government. Thankfully, there’s no killing competition either, even though the title would suggest that there is. The characters are older and deal with darker things. There is some death.
If you like books written with style, such as Maggie Steifvater’s Dream Thieves, you’ll definitely like Survival. These lines are very representative of the narrative’s flow and imagery:
Keep in mind that it’s basically a short story, and comes with four other shorter stories by the author, which is part of what you pay for.
Can you believe it’s time to start getting kids ready to go back to school? On the one hand, I’m looking forward to watching my oldest start high school and my youngest go into fourth grade. On the other, though, I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve had this summer, playing at Lagoon, going to the movies, and taking “road trips” (i.e., fishing expeditions where I didn’t catch anything but everyone else did). I’m thankful for the relative peace we’ve had, and our health! I also love that I found Atlantia by Ally Condie, and that I can share a great deal on it with you! It’s such a well-crafted book.
What Is Atlantia About?
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.
Who Would Like Atlantia, And Why?
I love when a well-crafted plot draws you in as it unfolds to reveal many pleats and twists, and then closes in around you as all those twists fold back in on themselves to make a nice little braid of detail. The fact that this plot takes place primarily in an underground city that is vivid and clear adds to the charm of this book. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 10 stars is that, in the end, I couldn’t quite identify with the main character, Rio. I’m not sure that I could put my finger on the reason why, but it has something to do with a slight lack of emotion, or lack of the whole spectrum of emotions in her. Other than that, this was a great read. So, anyone who likes a well-written book will like Atlantia.
Also, if you like fantasy books like The Selection by Kiera Cass or the Matched trilogy, also by Condie, you’ll like Atlantia.
What’s The Deal?
You can get the hardcover version of Atlantia, which sells for $18.73 on Amazon, for $4.59 on Thriftbooks. Dude. Hardcover. You can get a used paperback copy in decent condition for $3.79.
Can I tell you why I’m fascinated by science fiction, as both a reader and a writer?
it allows so many opportunities to explore the possibilities of our scientific knowledge, technology, ability to space travel, etc.
In a way, it provides me with hope that we as a species will be able to overcome the problems and contentions we’re currently experiencing and emerge even stronger.
It’s a relatively new genre, having only begun in the 1930’s and hit its stride in the 1960s and ’70s. Soft science fiction, which is the subgenre some of my manuscripts belong in, only emerged in the 1980s. This means there are so many story ideas that haven’t yet been explored!
Women who have had successful science fiction writing careers are particular examples of perseverance and talent.
Ann McCaffrey is one of those women. Before she passed away in 2011, she had a 46-year career as a science fiction writer, publishing 120 books, short stories, and novellas. She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. I totally want to be her.
One of her many books, called To Ride Pegasus, is somewhat characteristic of the New Age of science fiction, during which writers in that genre placed a greater emphasis on style and storytelling than previous writers who had focused more on premise. To Ride Pegasus, as a representative of that age of science fiction writing, is a fascinating read.
What Is To Ride Pegasus About?
They were four extraordinary women who read minds, healed bodies, diverted disasters, foretold the future–and became pariahs in their own land. A talented, elite cadre, they stepped out of the everyday human race…to enter their own!
I would argue that anyone who considers themselves any kind of a science fiction has to have read at least one Ann McAffrey book, and this is a good one to start with. This isn’t my favorite of Mrs. McCaffrey’s because the conflict wasn’t particularly focused, the main point-of-view character switched to someone else a third of the way through the book, and the climax and denoeument took place in all of about five pages. This is a book you read to become a more knowledgeable fan of the superhero sub-sub-genre of science fiction, of which books like Steelheart are more recent, typical examples.
I don’t know about you other writers, but sometimes I’ve struggled to find different ways to show character’s emotions, rather than tell. I think it’s part of every writer’s journey to learn the difference between showing and telling (e.g., “she cried” vs. “she felt sad”) then think of the myriad ways in which emotion can be shown, and then effectively show character emotions with voice and style. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, is definitely a book that has helped me on that journey, and I highly recommend it to anyone seriously looking to improve their writing abilities.
What Is The Emotion Thesaurus About?
One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.
For each of 75 emotions, there is a definition and lists of physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term states of that emotion, cues of suppressed versions of that emotion, and tips. The lists of physical signals are usually the longest, which is very helpful, and the internal sensations shorter. As I’ve done more and more book research, talked to more and more people, and read more and more books, I’ve found myself adding to the list of internal sensations. For example, for the emotion of loneliness, Ackerman and Puglisi list these internal sensations (i.e., ways loneliness might physically manifest itself in someone, and how those physical manifestations might be interpreted):
a thickness in the throat signaling the onset of tears
a longing so intense it manifests itself as an ache or pain
As I wrote Stranger In My Own Head (#1 & #2), which is about a girl who wakes up amnesic, being shot at by her grandmother, and with a boy who helps her escape and says he’s her boyfriend, but who she has no recollection of whatsoever and who has a troubled past that keeps interfering with their attempts to get away, I felt like loneliness would be one of the many strong emotions she’d experience. She’s only ever able to talk to Lorne, the “boyfriend,” unsure if she should trust him, knowing she can’t trust her grandma, being an orphan, and wanting to find someone else to reach out to to feel safer. To that list of physical manifestations of loneliness, I added things like:
feels like she has a heavy brain
lack of energy
It’s been very helpful, as have the other six thesauri that Ackerman and Puglisi have published: Emotion Amplifiers, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, and The Urban Setting Thesaurus. I highly recommend them.
As I’ve mentioned, all fiction writers can benefit from this book, no matter the genre they write in. I know that’s pretty broad, but it’s the truth. Anyone who wants to avoid telling, clichéd emotions, or melodrama needs it.