A Writer's Toolbox: Developing Characters and Settings
Creating characters and settings can be hard and stressful work for a writer. Ideas can come easily, until it's time to sit down and make your character or setting come to life. I often find myself staring off into space trying to figure out how to make my characters come alive in my story, or make the world they live in a vivid place for my readers. In my mind, all of my characters are amazing. I can see them, hear them, and know them. Same with the worlds I build. You should see inside my head! But you can't, right? A writer has to know how to bring all the fantastic things they see in their imagination to life so that everyone can enjoy it.
I've been writing for seven years now and in the beginning I didn't know where to start regarding how to make readers see what I see. I've learned many things along the way, including taking a children's writing course in the beginning, which I highly recommend! There are so many resources out there, and it's important as a new writer to start creating your own writer's toolbox. It's immensely helpful to have a one stop shop of your own for when you get stuck or simply have writers block (because it happens!). To help me show my readers the world I see, I filled my toolbox with two books: The Emotion Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus.
Both books are available in paperback and as an e-reader.
What is an Emotional Thesaurus?
Both The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus are tools writers can use to better express the emotion of their characters, traits of their characters, and the setting that surrounds their characters. The author's Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have several books writers could put in their toolbox including, The Urban Setting Thesaurus, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and The Positive Trait Thesaurus.
All six of their books can offer help to any writer no matter the genre or where a writer might be stuck in their story.
Why should writers put these in their toolbox?
When I'm on a roll and I'm writing dialogue, I get to a certain point where I stop and wonder if I've added enough information to really show my readers what I'm trying to convey through my characters. Almost 100% of the time the answer is no. Again, my story is really amazing in my head, and then not so much on paper. It's hard for me to have my characters properly show an emotion that I'm not feeling at the moment. If my character is sad at the story, and I'm not, I have to really put myself in that place to write it correctly. Or It can also be difficult to write a scene in a place you've never been before and you have to really take a moment to image what it might be like there. Can it be done without the thesaurus? Sure! But why not have a little help every now and then?
Using the Thesaurus' can take your sentence from this:
"Her co-worker's constant pencil tapping was irritating and she wanted it to stop."
"Emily clenched her teeth and glanced over at Nancy, her co-worker. Each tap of Nancy's pencil made Emily's muscles tense more. She closed her eyes and sighed, wishing the noise would stop."
The second sentence is a little more descriptive and helps the reader relate to the character. Can you tell her emotion? Personally, I think we can all relate to poor Emily a little.
Each Thesaurus gives several options that will help a writer add depth and emotion to their character or place. The Emotional Thesaurus gives examples of physical signals, internal sensations, and mental responses. In the Rural Setting Thesaurus, it helps the writer understand how to show their world's sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures/sensations. The Rural Thesaurus has been especially helpful to me lately as I've been trying to figure out world building for my novel The Five Kingdoms. Much like my characters, the world they live in looks amazing in my head, but the Thesaurus helps me "see" the places I'm trying to create so that I can show the reader through my words.
If you're a new writer or even a an established writer, I recommend adding at least one of these books to your toolbox. If you've used these books before, leave me a comment and tell me how it's helped your story! Let's get to work!