Last month, I was one of a finite number of super-lucky people to receive an advance review copy of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, due to be released on the 25th of October. Here goes…my honest opinion!
For anyone into writing, Ackerman and Puglisi have crafted a superb series of thesauruses to bring depth, life and complexity to characters and settings. And more than just your run-of-the-mill reference books, all of the thesauruses include careful discussions of how best to utilise the information given in the books – allowing writers to improve both their content and their writing. We all know the old adage, “Show – don’t tell!” These books give writers the tools and inspiration to do exactly that.
The Emotional Wound Thesaurus continues in the fine tradition of its siblings. Beginning with a thoughtful section titled “Self-Care for Writers”, it sets the scene for writers to explore some truly dark places: “Being Held Captive”; “A Physical Disfigurement”; “Failing at School”; “Wrongful Imprisonment”; and even “Growing Up in a Cult”. There are over 100 entries that deal with every manner of traumatic experience, from something we might consider trivial, like “Getting Dumped”, to something that might be very difficult to handle, like “The Death of One’s Child”. The authors assure us the entries have been created in conjunction with a psychologist, and based on the meticulous information provided (and the little I remember from taking Psychology 101 when I was in college!), I have no reason to disbelieve them.
Within each section, the authors start with examples, then describe the basic needs which are being compromised by this trauma (in the section “What is an Emotional Wound?”, Ackerman and Puglisi discuss The Hierarchy of Human Needs, which is a theory created by psychologist Abraham Maslow that looks at the basic needs driving human behaviour and causing people to act in a particular way). Other sub-sections of each entry are “The Character May Fear…”, “Personality Traits that May Form”, and “Opportunities to Face or Overcome This Wound”, among others. Each wound is treated in a deep and far-reaching manner, allowing one to apply the trauma to a wide variety of situations and across a broad spectrum of genres (as someone who tends towards Fantasy, I could apply nearly any of these to an alternate world setting with minimal effort – well, maybe “A School Shooting” would be on the bottom of my list, but it’s not un-doable!).
The characters in my current project all have at least one emotional wound that drives them and helps define who they are, whether it’s “Learning That One’s Parent Was a Monster” or “Being the Product of Rape”. I’ve enjoyed working through the careful and thorough information presented in this book and having the opportunity to view the issue from many angles. In the case of leaning that one’s parent was a monster, I enjoyed the list of false beliefs that could be embraced, such as “Everything I know is a lie” or “My parent never loved me – how could they, and do what they did?” Both of those ideas fit my vision for the main character, but I never considered some of the things my character might fear because of this specific wound, and that was a very helpful opportunity to explore the wound further.
To check out the sample entry of “Accidentally Killing Someone”, click here.
The PDF version I received is organised well and contains links throughout the document to make navigation easy. My only gripe is that the index is not click-able, but in all honesty, the index is basically just the Contents repeated at the back…so if anything, it’s a bit redundant. The appendices offer extra tools like flow charts, worksheets and a Character Arc Progression Tool that all help with applying the information in the book. And I love examples…makes the info so real and applicable…and Appendix C: Wounding Examples from Popular Stories is both highly interesting and useful.
Even though I’ve received an advance copy, my opinion wouldn’t be any different if I’d purchased this book on release day. As with Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s other works, this is superbly researched and highly informative. Whether you have an emotional wound in mind for your character or just thumb through for inspiration, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus doesn’t disappoint. As a tool to assist in creating characters with realism and depth, I highly recommend it!