Strong Characters Need to Laugh, Cry and Quake

If you write fiction, you know it’s all about the emotions.  What good protagonist doesn’t glare, stare or growl?  Surely your leading female will need to shed a tear, give a smile, or gasp with fear at least once during your story.

The problem is—how to describe these emotions without sounding trite or overdone. 

Well, I’ve stumbled upon a jewel that will help.  The book is called The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book by J. Ken and C. Shelton.  The authors have selected fifty common emotions, characteristics and movements, and listed over 3,000 ways to describe said emotions, characteristics and movements. 

Why have your bad guy act angry when you can have him glare with hostility or let rage distort his features?  Maybe his eyes can convey the fury within.

Speaking of eyes, let me tell you—romance writers know a thing or two about describing eyes.  This section alone has a list 8 ½ pages long!   Why have green eyes when you can have eyes the color of malachite? Eyes that glint indulgently. Or eyes that flash with azure fire?

Yes, some of these are a bit extreme for the non-romanticist, but this book is still a great source for thinking outside the stereotypical box.  I can truly say, without a shudder of humiliation, that The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book has spiced up my descriptive writing.


Filed under My Philosophy on Writing, Resources for Writers, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Strong Characters Need to Laugh, Cry and Quake

  1. Forrest

    Excellent blogs, thank you so much for sending me the link and for the tip on the “Roman Writer’s Phrase Book”. Not sure if you would ever have a need for the book, but I really enjoyed “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers.” If you get a moment at one of the book stores just check it out, it is a brilliant book that breaks down the work of Joseph Campbell (The Hero of a Thousand Faces) into a excellent resource for writers.

    • Thanks–I’ll definitely look for that book. I’ve been surprised how often I really do use writer’s resource books. Yes, it’s fun to buy them and have them on the shelf–but I frequently flip through them. I think that reviewing them for this blog will also help me dig into them more. Is “The Writer’s Journey” focused on Fantasy? I’m not familiar with Joseph Campbell.

      ~Amy Dee Stephens
      “Words carry time and culture.”

      • Forrest

        Actually Joseph Campbell was a college professor who built his career on “comparative mythology”. In a nutshell, he showed how all the great stories of mythology are tied together and how they all point to the same underlying message. I have found all of his work, whether it is tied to Western or Eastern tradition, to be very insightful. I was first introduced to Joseph Campbell when I was 20, and still find myself going back and looking over his theories and reviewing his work.

        As far as Fantasy reference goes, I have a ton of books that involve that niche, but I am sure that it is not what you are looking for. Fantasy has always been the “brain candy” genre for geeks, which most people find to be completely without merit (unless it is the George R. R. Martin series of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

        Well take care, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

      • Thank you–sounds interesting. Regarding Fantasy, I have a few favorites in the genre still (like David Eddings, Mealnie Rawn, Anne Macaffery and Terry Brooks) but I mainly read Young Adult these days. My sister and my brother-in-law, now, they could talk shop about Fantasy.

        Amy Dee Stephens
        “Words carry time and culture.”

  2. Forrest

    Btw, I hate reading my old posts and seeing major typos. 😉

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