Emotion Thesaurus started as an experiment on CritiqueCircle and evolved into a popular project on Angela's blog, The Bookshelf Muse. When asked about the success of the project, Angela said: "It still kinda blows my mind how well it took off—generally with the Internet it feels like whatever you need you can always find with a few clicks, but there was nothing to help with portraying emotions that we could find at that time."
I refer to the Emotion Thesaurus whenever I'm stuck trying to translate an emotion into a facial expression or physical reaction that "shows" the character's feelings instead of the usual smiled, grinned, frowned scowled, or my personal favorite--nodded.
For instance, to show my character is happy, I might consult the list under Happiness/Joy and replace her generic smile by having her bounce on her toes or move with a light, floating walk. If I have two characters expressing resentfulness (Resentful/Sullen) instead of having both of them face each other with arms crossed, she might spin away in a huff and he may roll his eyes and mumble.
Be sure to check out the Expressing Cardinal Emotions: Male vs. Female, which illustrates how the different genders show emotions or react differently in emotional situations.
Here is just a random sampling to give you a taste of this rich compilation:
breathing deeply, noisily
laughter with an edge
talking in a carefully controlled tone
taking inappropriate risks
Rubbing at back of the neck, thinking of what to do next
False cheer, weak smile
Voice dropping or going quiet
Voice rising in anger
Denial (shaking head, whispering ‘no’ or a curse under breath)
Reaching out slowly to take something or to assist
Glancing around, uneasy
Backing away from a situation, trying to not be noticed
Making excuses, lying
Holding a hand up, warding someone or something off
Thrusting chin upward
Refusing to listen
Walking away from another person
Retreating into a personal space (bedroom, in front of the TV, shoving earphones in and tuning out)
Cranking up music to drown out someone else
The entire Emotion Thesaurus covers a comprehensive list of emotions and is organized as follows:
- What is an Emotion Thesaurus?
- Expressing Cardinal Emotions: Male vs. Female
- Love & Attraction
- Addendum: Defensive
- Addendum: Desire
- Addendum: Doubt
- Addendum: Energetic
- Addendum: Exhaustion
- Addendum: Fatigue
- Addendum: Hunger
- Addendum: Loneliness
- Addendum: Pain (physical/emotional)
- Addendum: Sarcasm/Verbal Disrespect