I had been eying “The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression” when suddenly I realized I had inadvertently purchased it for the Kindle app on my phone; however, that mistake proved quite fortuitous.
As the name suggests the book is a thesaurus with each entry being an emotion, such as “Anger,” “Confidence,” “Desperation,” and so on. Each of these entries then contain a definition of the emotion followed by physical signals, internal sensations a character might feel and mental responses, in addition to cues of being conflicted over the long term and cues when suppressing the feeling. Each entry also includes a writer’s tip.
Like all thesauruses, writer’s need to be careful on how they use it (in the future, I will be writing an article on thesaurus abuse); it is not a cure all, but it might be able to get the creative juices going to great unique, realistic reactions. Writer’s who purchases need to remember the book is a thesaurus, a tool not a how-to-guide. Some entries can be short, which is why I recommend also checking the entries of related emotions to further expand on possible reactions.
All in all, I highly recommend this book for writers’ bookshelves as a potential useful tool, especially when you find your characters over the course of the novel constantly using the same reactions e.g., sighing, scowling, etc.
What is even better is the authors of “The Emotion Thesaurus” are donating a portion of their profits to The Heifer Project, a great program that address world hunger through giving livestock (like pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, etc.) to families in need, even training them how to properly care for them. Through the program, these families are given the tools to not only provide for themselves but potentially earn a living selling products from their animal e.g., eggs, milk, etc.
It is a project particularly close to my heart since it was started by my church denomination (Church of the Brethren), and my mother, who was an elementary school teacher, would often raise money with her students for the project. After my mother passed, we continued that tradition by donating part of the funeral donations to The Heifer Project; the rest into a scholarship in her memory.
The authors also have a very informative blog that contains additional thesauruses, plus supplemental material to “The Emotion Thesaurus” (like how men and women react differently to certain emotions).
Always save files regularly, constantly back files up: This is the mantra of all writers — or at least, it should be. Surprisingly while most writers will constantly save their work as they write, they do not always make regular up-to-date copies on multiple devices. Personally, I had gotten into a routine of saving a copy to a USB flash drive and on my computer, usually a copy a piece on both my desktop and laptop. However, I grew complacent and then Murphy’s law struck: I lost the final revisions to my novel, setting me back several months.
I had started to only save files on my flash drive as I started those final revisions; the flash drive, one of those sliding ones, failed. I rushed it to a repair shop, where I found out it is virtually impossible to fix flash drives with the sliding USB flash drives being notoriously faulty. I left with a crippled husk of a flash drive, my files unsalvageable.
Needless to say, I was devastated and could not pull myself out of the tailspin for several months. I had had good practices in place, but like most people, I grew lazy. Luckily, I had my “version two” revisions and even some of the final revisions, which I had shared with writing friends to see if the changes improved the story or were unneeded. I began to reexamine my habits, looking for ways to prevent any future catastrophic data loss, especially when another failure left me without my laptop — fortunately in this case, the hard-drive was fine and could be converted into an external hard-drive. My search eventually led me to the “cloud” as it were.
In The Cloud
I turned to Google Drive, which replaced Google Docs, as a viable option for storing documents, shortly after it launched in April 2012; prior to that, I had started to email copies to myself. Google Drive creates a folder on one’s desktop allowing you to drag files into it; they are then accessible online. Google Drive also maintains Google Doc characteristics, so you can literally edit anywhere even on mobile devices thanks to the Google Drive app. You can also share documents with friends, setting the level at which they can interact with the document: just reading, only comments or full ability to edit. Document owners can also prevent files from being downloaded to their readers computers. Google Drive comes with 5 GB cloud storage space.
I find Google Drive convenient and easy to use. I also see possibilities for collaborative writing or writing exercises if the opportunity would ever present itself. I also love that I can use the app to start a new document from my phone or anywhere really.
Dropbox is another popular avenue for some writers, though I admit — in my limited experience with it — I’m not as fond of it as I am with Google Drive. For one thing, Dropbox starts users off with only 2.5 GB, which might be enough for some writers while not for others. Dropbox does have DB Text Editor, which also allows for editing on the go. Really both options work perfectly with it coming down to personal taste.
Even after starting to use Google Drive, I continue to make multiple copies on my flash drive, computers and external drives, just in case the unexpected should occur.
It has been at least a year now since I lost so much work, but I have recovered — even surpassed where I was. It was painful trying to retrace my footfalls, knowing the words would never be the same, but as I continued, I realized this new final draft far out-shown the old. The pain is no longer there, replaced by contentment and lessons learned.
I was crazy, insane, off my rocker — just a little bit more than now — going into 2010, even more so at the end of 2010. I was riding high after my first NaNoWriMo win, and I had discovered there were other NaNoWriMo-esque events. My thoughts upon the discover: I want to participate in them all!
I did not participate in JanNoWriMo, during January, that year; it was just too close to November, and I needed to recover. However, I did explore NaNoEdMo in March and JulNoWriMo in July. I used NaNoEdMo as a chance to work on “Passage” and its sequel and my NaNoWriMo project, “Order.” From there, I participated in JulNoWriMo in July writing “Parting,” the third book in the series. NaNoWriMo came around again, and I wrote “Desecration,” the fourth book in the series.
With NaNoWriMo’s completion in 2010, grander ideas took root: 2011 would be the year I participated in NaNoEdMo, Wriye, SciFiWriMo, JulNoWriMo, either AugNoWriMo or SeptNoWriMo, GothNoWriMo and finally NaNoWriMo. Those plans came to naught as my life took an unexpected turn for the better: I got my job as a staff writer, which meant crazy deadlines, learning a new company and no time to participate in such events. I did participate in NaNoWriMo, jumping genres from fantasy to SciFi and not reaching the 50,000 goal.
Now, it has been a year since I have participated in a WriMo event. I feel surer on my feet at work, and “Passage” is pretty much done, opening the way for me to look at this as the year I can try my hand again, but rather than plow ahead making unrealistic dreams of grandeur, I plan to strategically pick my options. NaNoEdMo will be used to edit and rewrite “Order,” SciFiWriMo to finish my SciFi novel, JulNoWriMo to finish the project it started (“Parting”), SeptNoWriMo or AugNoWriMo to possibly finish “Desecration.” NaNoWriMo would then stand for me to start Book V or a new project.
The WriMos will provide deadlines and incentives I need to tie up loose-ends. I will also participate in NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month; I have yet to determine which month I will choose for this one yet.
For those interested in trying different monthly WriMo events, here is a list:
JaNoWriMo: (January) Write either 50K or your own word-count
Choose-Your-Own-Novel Month: (January) Write a piece of interactive fiction (ex. choose your own adventure type of book) and finish it. There is no set word count required.
FAWM: February Album Writing Month, write 14 original songs in a month.
NaNoEdMo: (March) Commit to 50 hours novel editing.
April Fool’s: (April) Set a word-count goal and fulfill it by the end of the month.
Camp NaNoWriMo: (April or July) A camp-themed version of NaNoWriMo where you write a 50K word work of original fiction.
JunNoWriMo: (June) Pick a word-count and attempt to reach it by the end of the month.
JulNoWriMo: (July) Write 50K words by the end of the month.
It’s finally here 2013 — well, finally might not be the right choice of words since it seemed to fly here! Unlike 2012, I am very optimistic about reaching several writing goals, including the finished revisions to my novel “Passage,” which I hope to start submitting to agents by February or March. But about what after “Passage” is metaphorically off my desk? Oh, there are tons of projects on my desk to occupy me, more than I could ever finish in 2013. So instead, here are my top five projects I want to work on in 2013 if not finish:
Turn focus to started Sci-Fi project
Start revising “Order,” the sequel to “Passage,” which will involve extensive rewrites
Maintain WordPress account (already have some great writing plans for this)
Write several short stories with intent to submit to magazines
Revise and finish “Desecration,” book three of the same series as “Passage”
Tarot cards, particularly in the U.S., hold quite the stigma, particularly for their use to divine the future. Prior to that use, they started as a playing card game. Tarot cards also have a use for nailing down/expanding characters, creating new characters, or sparking the creative juices of their author’s. I just ask readers to keep an open mind: Tarot cards are after all not inherently evil.
There are a wide variety of tarot card decks to choose from, including the Universal Waite Tarot Deck, Arthurian tarot card deck, The Celtic Dragon Tarot Deck — just to name a few. Personally, I own the Medieval Scapini Tarot and the Universal Fantasy Tarot card decks. Each deck comes with the traditional 78-card-deck, plus an instructional book that shares the meaning of each of the cards. Personally, I prefer the instructional book that comes with the Medieval Scapini deck as it provides a list of words that get my brain pumping rather than a statement that is often vague.
For example, the entry for The Popess in the Medieval Scapini is: wisdom, sound judgment, common sense, learning, serenity, objectivity, etc. The Universal Fantasy Tarot deck’s entry is: If we look serenely within ourselves, we can find the light that shows the way to discernment; personally, especially when I place the cards in my writer’s card layout, I get nothing from that. Others, however, might be able to work with card decks with such statements like the Fantasy Tarot deck, depending on the layout type you choose to use.
My advice when searching for a deck is to research each one carefully before putting money down, especially since tarot decks can be rather expensive. Tarot decks can be found for sale online at Amazon.com as well as in bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
Writer’s Tarot Layout: “Honest Abe”
The tarot layout I use was self-created with one of my writing friends and is a character layout that looks at a characters: family/childhood (Card One), relationships (Card Two), strengths (Card Three), virtues (Card Four), disposition (Card Five), motivations (Card Six), quirks (Card Seven), weakness (Card Eight) and fears (Card Nine). The shape looks like a man with a stovepipe hat — hence the layout name “Honest Abe.” All the cards are placed vertically in the layout unless otherwise noted.
The symbolism of the layout is as follows: we are all influenced by our family and our childhoods, which is why it is card one, the relationship card lays horizontal at the bottom of card one because our family and childhood often influences how we react with others; card three and card four make up the “eyes” of layout, which show the character’s inner bests, as it were, and what they see as virtues; disposition (card 5) is the core of the layout; motivations and quirks (cards 6 & 7) are the arms of the character as they suggest motions and action; and finally weaknesses and fears (cards 8 and 9) make up the character’s legs as they are entities that can keep a person grounded, unable to reach motivations and potential.
In the next section, I will combine everything and show how it is done, using a random new character called Carola.
How It Works: Character Sample “Carola”
For this example, I will use the Medieval Scapini and its instructional book, which I also use with the Universal Fantasy Tarot. Note the below examples are my own personal interpretations but the cards can be interpreted in many different ways, and writers should use what knowledge they have of their characters to shape their readings.
Carola’s family/childhood: The first card is the Four of Coins, which uses words like love of material wealth, hoarder, miser, ungenerous person, and so on. From these words, one might determine that potentially one of Carola’s parents was ungenerous, possibly not as warm and supportive to her. Depending on the cards, surrounding this one, more ideas may crop up in regards to this childhood and how it has affected her. It should also be noted that the ungenerous person might not be a parent; they could be someone else who has had a lasting impact on Carola.
The second card (The Two of Cups), her relationships, shows love, friendship beginning and renewed, passion, union, engagement, marriage, among other similar words. Carola would seem to be very open, loving person, who is possibly engaged or married. She also would appear to be a good friend.
For the third card, I turn over the Ace of Cups. Words used to describe the card include: great abundance, perfection, joy, productiveness, goodness overflowing, among others. Carola’s strength is that she does not linger on downside of things, choosing instead to focus on the positive. She is also very productive rather being lazy.
The fourth card, Eight of Wands, showcases Carola’s virtue is swift activity that fits her strength of productivity. The other words (such as hastily made decisions, too rapid advancement, etc.) that are represented in the card do not fit the circumstances of virtue so I choose to ignore them and focus on the word that sticks with me.
Justice is the fifth card, Carola’s disposition, and it reads fairness, harmony, balanced, equity, righteousness, virtue, honor, virginity, firmness of character, a person who response favorably to the good nature of others, a considerate person, and so on. All the above speak to Carola’s disposition, and they seem to fit with the person the previous cards have been painting.
Card six gives us our first reversal: Page of Coins in reverse. A reversal is when a card is upside down to the reader; in this case, the card was horizontal so when it is turned clockwise to become vertical the image on the card is upside down. In reverse, the card means an unrealistic person, failure to recognize obvious facts, dissipation of ideas, illogical thinking, rebelliousness, wastefulness and unfavorable news. Now these do not should like good motivations, do they? They also don’t seem to fit with what we know of Carola so far. So what do we take from this card? Personally, I think it reveals a second character; possibly some on Carola cares for who is making bad decisions, someone she wants to help, which is her motivation. Of course, like all cards, someone else could see something completely different.
Quirks, Knight of Wands, shows that faced with departure or a journey, Carola can be flighty, which is a very broad interpretation given the words: departure, a journey, advancement into the unknown, alteration, flight, absence and change of residence.
Ace of Swords is drawn for weaknesses, card 8: great determination, initiative, strength, force, activity, excessiveness, triumph, power, success, deep emotional feeling, love, championship and conquest. What weaknesses do I draw from this? Carola can be excessive with her productivity and approach to others. She also wears her emotions on her sleeve and might feel her emotion too deeply. She also might get ahead of herself with her determination.
Her fears, card nine, is The Fool. The following words stick out to me: new adventure, frenzy, lack of discipline, immaturity, irrationality, mania, spontaneity, carelessness in promises, infatuation and indiscretion. Carola does not like things out of order. She is possibly concerned that her love is being met with infatuation instead of being equally returned.
Once fully put together, the cards paint a pretty good picture of this new character; sometimes, the cards don’t. However in failing, they usually get a writer’s mind consider why the character does not fit, which in return can lead to the character the writer was really aiming for. Sometimes, it takes going through multiple character layouts to hit some gold that leads to the creation a fitting character or to expand on an existing character.
Trying Without A Tarot Deck
For those wishing to try the layout without a deck, visit http://www.facade.com/tarot, where you will be able to do a free reading with a choice between several different decks. There is no need to input your name, simply input into the question section the name of card slot, such as “family,” “relationships,” until all 9 slots in the “Honest Abe” layout have been asked. For the spread, pick one card spread, and see what you get.
Tarot cards are only a tool for brainstorming; writers need to also consider the needs of their story to know if the ideas the cards are giving work within it. Sometimes, readings may not give ideas while other times one or two nuggets may be uncovered. Sometimes, you might just be blown away by the amount of information you are given that triggers something in your mind. At one time, I ran a well-developed character through the layout and was shocked when the cards I had picked proceeded to tell his whole story as I had envisioned it.
The key to this method is to remember: You are the writer. This is your work. You don’t have to take everything from the reading.
There comes a time in every blog’s life where it needs a reboot — well, maybe in the case of a lazy blogger — to capture focus that was never there, to give purpose to what had none. This WordPress is no longer a college project; instead, it will be growing and spreading wisdom of a frazzled staff writer/copy editor/aspiring novelist — so many titles, I know.
There will be a focus, which will include sharing: progress on my own work as I draw near to publishing, articles about all things writing that hopefully will be of use to fellow writers, interesting tidbits related to writing and reviews of books, apps or software that might peak the interest of writers or benefit them.
So pull up a seat and get comfortable with a cup of tea!