ASC: Thesaurus Talk

Welcome back to my 2020 Author Survival Course.

How have you been doing with Tips #1 and #2? Are you feeling less frazzled? I hope so. BTW, you can always send me a question via my contact button. I’d be happy to answer privately or even share use your question as a topic on this page. Today’s topic is what’s the best thesaurus? When should you use one? Why should you use one? And is on-line, ebook or print better?

Tip #3: Thesaurus Talk

I’ve taught college English a long time. A thesaurus is a powerful tool, but it can also be a dangerous one. Too often, I see students throw in crazy words that they’re not sure the meaning of. The purpose of a thesaurus is not to obfuscate. Rather, we use a thesaurus when we have a word in mind, but can’t pull it up to our conscious brain. We use a thesaurus when we kind of know the word we want, but not exactly. In other words, a thesaurus is like a giant treasure chest, and it can be super effective when used judiciously.

Several years ago a writer friend introduced me to The Emotion Thesaurus. This is the most used book on my desk. I keep the it close at hand while I’m editing. These books do more than give you a synonym. For example, if you were to look up AMAZEMENT, you’d find a definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses and more. It’s absolutely awesome, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (No, I don’t know the author, and I won’t receive any money if you purchase the book.) These books are available in ebook or print.

There are six books in this series. The other two I use are the Positive Trait and Negative Trait. When I begin writing a book, I choose two main characteristics of my lead characters. For example, in my current WIP, my hero is nature-focused, but he’s also scatterbrained. That makes for some funny scenes, since he runs an exotic animal farm. My heroine is courageous, but also evasive. I copy the related sheets, slip it into my WIP’s folder, and reference it often. You’ll find possible causes, associated behaviors, even challenging scenarios. These are great for helping you to build inherent conflict and tension in your scenes.

I also use an on-line tool–Visual Thesaurus. This page gives you a word map for anything you look up. The best part is that you can limit it to the part of speech you want. When you click on one of the words given, you receive a different set of words that are even more relevant. You can really drill down and find the word you mean. The cost is $2.95/month or $19.95/yr, and I’d gladly pay double that, but ssshhhh…don’t tell them. And don’t take my word for how good a tool it is. You can try it for free for a few days.

I hope these tips make your writing journey a tiny bit easier. If they are helping, feel free to share this page with a friend.

We’ll talk again soon.