Monday, June 4, 2012

Emotional Temperament & Giveaway!

You're in for a treat! Becca Puglisi is here today! She and her partner Angela Ackerman are the authors of the Fabulous resource - The Emotion Thesaurus!

Do you Know your Character’s Emotional Temperament?

You’re fiddling with your WIP, focusing on character emotion. Conveying it effectively is kind of hard, so you’ve got your checklist ready.

1.  Strong visual cues to show emotion? Check.
2.  No melodrama? Check.
3.  Fresh phrasings instead of clichés? Check.
4.  Identifying my character’s emotional temperament so I know how he’ll express emotion?


There’s more to writing emotion than correct methodology. We have to intimately know our characters to determine their emotional tendencies and portray their responses consistently. Personality is key, but it’s not the only factor that determines a person’s emotional temperament. Someone with an outgoing personality might be emotionally reserved. A reserved person might choose not to express their emotions, yet still feel them deeply and constantly struggle to hide them.

Personality does factor in, but so do upbringing and environment, along with age, values, and past events. Put all this stuff together, and you have your character’s emotional temperament, which determines how they tend to react emotionally. Here are some notable examples:

Katniss Everdeen: Spare. If you look at scenes of high tension in The Hunger Games, Katniss is rarely responding emotionally. One of her defining characteristics is practicality. Emotions aren’t practical, so she doesn’t indulge in them often.

Anne of Green Gables: Demonstrative. Anne Shirley is impulsive. As such, she doesn’t think about the appropriateness of her emotions. She just reacts, in every situation.

Dally (the Outsiders): Hard. Dally’s a juvenile delinquent with a tough exterior. The emotion he expresses almost always has an edge: rage, derision, pride. Softer emotions, like sadness or worry, he tends to conceal.

Other Emotional Temperaments:

Emotion-Specific (choosing to express certain emotions and hide others)

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point. When writing emotion, think about the factors that contribute to your character’s emotional temperament: personality, upbringing/environment, age, values, and past events. Putting them all together will give you a good idea as to what kinds of situations will trigger a response, how big or small the response will be, and how likely your character is to hide certain emotions.

Can you think of more factors that contribute to a person’s emotional temperament? And do you know any other temperaments we should add to the list?

You can find Becca & Angela at their awesome blog - The Bookshelf Muse. here's purchasing information for the Emotion Thesaurus.

One lucky person is going to win a PDF copy of The Emotion Thesaurus! To enter, all you need to do is comment on this post and make sure you include your email address if it's not attached to your profile. That's it! I'll use to choose the winner and I'll announce the lucky person on my next post - (probably Wednesday for those of you who like to know deadlines :)) Good luck to everyone!


  1. Great post! Bookmarking this for future reference. :)

  2. this is explained really well. And I had to giggle at the crickets, lol. It's not always easy to pinpoint the emotional temperament of our characters, but it's so important, especially for consistency.

  3. This is helpful. My characters just do as they please so I can't really do much with their emotions because they do it all, but I want to experiment more. I still won't be doing much, but this gives me ideas of new ways to push them.

    Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you like the illustration idea!

  4. An interesting and informative post, thanks Jemi!

  5. Erm... Damaged? Is that a temperament or a personal trait!?! Yikes!! Maybe I do need a this thesaurus!! Yay!!!

    Thanks for the opportunity! take care

  6. Becca and Angela have a very helpful site for writers. Thanks for hosting, Jemi!

  7. I'd love to win a copy of the Emotion Thesaurus. I've visited their website before and found the information really helpful. Great giveaway!

  8. Great points, Becca, very nice post.

  9. I keep hearing about this book - need to pick it up.

  10. Oh, I love this!

    Conveying emotion is such a scene definer and such a great way to show how a character changes (or not!) in a novel.

    I love the reminder about consistency in character's reactions - -can be tricky yes?

  11. Great post Becca. Thanks for giving us the right tools for developing our characters.

    Don't enter me in the contest. I have a copy of this book.

  12. Precy - yay! It's such a great resource :)

    Lynda - I agree! It's not always easy to figure it out. Love what Becca and Angela have done!

    Jack - it's always good for us to know why our characters are taking off in the directions they go! :)

    Nas - you're very welcome! :)

    Old Kitty - I think it's a great resource for everyone! :)

    Elizabeth - yes - they really do!

    Beth - I think it's such a great resource - I love it :)

    Jeff - Becca & Angela have put together such a great resource!

    Alex - it's well worth it!

  13. Galit - tricky indeed! I love the way Becca & Angela have pinpointed so many different emotional states and the reactions that go with them :)

    Natalie - okay! It's all about making those characters deep and real, isn't it :)

  14. Your point about Katniss is so valid. I find her practically awesome. It came of wonderful. ;D

  15. Personality and temperament has always fascinated me, in real life and in writing - hence my degrees/career in psychology and social work! No need to enter me in the giveaway - I already have my copy of the Emotion Thesaurus - it's a great resource.

  16. This is a BRILLIANT posts!!!!

    I already have the ET. Love it!!!! (yep, I'm having an exclamation mark freak out). :D

  17. been wanting this wonderful book, need more words for wonderful, terrific, positive, etc!!!

  18. Great post Becca! Emotional Temperament is really key to understand in order to create that fresh emotion!

    Thanks everyone for the kind words--and wow, so many of you have the ET already! I hope it's a helpful tool for your writing!


  19. Very cool topic! I love that Katniss and Anne are complete polar opposites of one another. One is cold and calculating, the other is dreamy and impulsive. I don't think Katniss would do very well at Green Gables - LOL.

  20. I've seen this {brilliant} book bopping around the blogasphere. I need to pick up my copy.


  21. I'm bookmarking this blog post to refer to later. :) And would LOVE to win a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus!

  22. The Emotion Thesaurus has always been a great place--I recommend it to anyone who's having trouble with their characters. Don't have the book yet though, I've only ever lingered around the website, but I hear many great things about it!

  23. Awesome insight. That;s something not a lot of authors pay attention to, and those that do move on to the Best-Seller's lists.

  24. Another super splash on the book scene. As to emtions: I love sneaky, secretive characters.

  25. Fantastic! Knowing our characters that closely not only makes the story better, but it makes the writing easier! this is such a great resource. Thanks A&B, and thanks Jemi! :o) <3

  26. So glad this makes sense, lol. When thinking of how my characters would display emotion, I've only ever considered their personality. But I think that really is only part of the equation.

    Thanks for all the encouraging words, everyone. For those of you who have your own copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, I hope you're finding it helpful!

  27. I'm sticking this post in my "go back to and study" folder. The book sounds like a good one to have on hand.

    And I loved the crickets.

  28. sounds like a fascinating book!

  29. Already own this title and use it every time I write.
    It's wonderful.
    Thank you,

  30. Great, informative post! Thank you!

  31. That was so useful. I've never realized the range of temperaments there are. I'll definitely keep all of this in mind for the future.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    ~Riv Re
    Riv Reads

  32. This sounds like a perfect addition to my writing books toolkit! Thank you!! :)

  33. Temperaments are important things to keep in mind while writing. Thanks for the reminder!


  34. SA - Katniss is such a well developed consistent character! :)

    Kristin - it's such a great resource! And those degrees would give you such insight into characters and motivations! :)

    Stina - agreed! Becca is brilliant - and the resource is wonderful :)

    Tara - teehee! You're right! :)

    Angela - agreed! It's nice to see so many people with the book already!

    Julie - agreed! And can you imagine how Anne would react in District 13??!!

    Teresa - it's well worth it!

    Laura - yay! It's a great resource for all writers!

    Kristen - the website is terrific too! 2 brilliant ladies! :)

    Cyrus - great point! Those best selling authors tend to really know their characters well, don't they? :)

    Lee - those sneaky folks are so much fun to write!!

    Leigh - I agree - the better we know them and know their motivations and instincts, the better the writing!

    Becca - there is a difference between the personality and the instincts - it's an interesting distinction :)

    Linda - me too! I love having this resources at my fingertips!

    Lynn - it is! It gives a great insight into how and why characters react :)

    Heather - it's very easy to get used to using - love it! :)

    Lindsey - Becca really knows her stuff, doesn't she? :)

    Riv - I know! Until you really think about it, you don't realize how many there are!

    DL - I think you're right! It's a great addition :)

    Eldra - exactly! It's an aspect of charcter that can be forgotten!

  35. Another great post. Each time I read one, I'm reminded of something else I need to add to make my work the best it can be. Thanks, Ladies.

  36. Thanks, people. And thank you, Jemi, for letting me crash your blog ;)

  37. Love your post and received your book in the mail today. Already in love with it!

  38. I had never really thought about it that way. The crickets part was so true, haha!

  39. I enjoyed reading through the list and the examples from popular books. I keep temperament in mind when writing.

  40. I love the way you narrowed down those characters to one word. Spare, impulsive, hard. So true! Thanks for reminding us to consider emotional temperament.

  41. Robert - I know what you mean! I feel like I need to pull out the ms and do an entire round of edits right now! :)

    Jeff - I agree! Thanks for dropping by!

    Becca - you're very welcome! It's been a blast! :)

    Liz - that's awesome! It's a fab resource!

    Luke - yes! Those crickets got to me too :)

    Medeia - it's such an important thing to remember! :)

    Julie - she did such a great job! I love the narrow focus :)

  42. My copy of Emotion Thesaurus is already full of post-its pegging my characters. I would say my word is: delayed. My response comes after, not in the moment.

  43. I'm loving the thesaurus, and I might add wary. One of my characters because of past experiences is very cautious, observant and wary.

    Great post. Thanks.

  44. Leslie - it's such a great resource! Becca & Angela are brilliant! :)

    Shelia - yay! One of my characters is wary too - it's a fun trait to write about! :)

  45. My, that book sounds handy!

  46. Great post!
    I need to apply this to my characters.

    Febe Moss

  47. I love it when my favorite peeps get together on one blog! Great post, Becca! Great hosting, Jemi! :D

  48. I've read and been hearing so much about this emotional thesaurus; it sounds fabulous! I'd love to win a copy of this book! My email address is: cvigna555 at mail dot com.

  49. Fantastic advice and certainly something I'll be taking into consideration in the future while plugging away endlessly on my WIP!.

  50. Olivia - it's awesome! :)

    Febe - I agree - whenever I read a post by Becca or Angela I feel I need to revise again! :)

    Lisa - thanks so much!

    Julie - you're in the draw! I use randomizer later on tonight! :)

    Maire - I hear you on the endlessly plugging. I'm right with you in those trenches :)

  51. I've been following Emotin Thesaurus from the start & have saved all that we're previously posted by blog & newsletter. Would dearly love a PDF copy!


    I Yearn For You My Sultan available on

  52. Suzanne - you're in the draw! :) It's a fabulous resource for writers!! :)

  53. Great points to consider, thanks Becca!

  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

  55. Hi, Becca. My email is

    You wrote: "
    Personality does factor in, but so do upbringing and environment, along with age, values, and past events. Put all this stuff together, and you have your character’s emotional temperament, which determines how they tend to react emotionally. (...)

    When writing emotion, think about the factors that contribute to your character’s emotional temperament: personality, upbringing/environment, age, values, and past events. (...)

    Can you think of more factors that contribute to a person’s emotional temperament?"

    Hmm... How about Destiny? Sure, the Emotional Temperaments are the result of Upbringing, etc. But sometimes, things seem just preordained, especially in fantasy literature.

    Remember Frodo, who was, for no particular reason, highly introspective and even a bit poetic (albeit he kept that side of his personality well hidden most of the time).

    Remember Supperman, who was, at times, depicted as almost some kind of "ersatz-messiah". There's NO way somebody can be THAT good just because he was raised by an nice farmer couple. Hence, it follows that Superman's almost unbelievable goodness must have been a product of destiny, rather than of mere upbringing.

    Remember Elric of Melnibonè, whose expressed wish was an ordered mindsetting and emotionall temperament, but whose cosmic fate (i.e. Destiny) forever chained him to the forces of Chaos, which, of course, brought with it a spiteful, vengeful and selfish emotional temperament.

    When we write a character, whose virtues, vices and deeds are far to great to have been the result of mere upbringing or the mere impressions of past events printed upon the character's soul, than it was probably the story itself that created the character. Than we have two options:

    We can either drop the character ("He's unrealistic, I don't want him!"), or we can WORK with the character, until he becomes identificable WITHOUT losing that which makes of an ordinary character something special, namely the servant of the storie's "destiny".

    Personally, I strongly suggest the second option: How realistic were Aragorn, Corum or Batman? Yet they still stood the test of time, while all those boring evermen/women are long since forgotten.

    Destiny is the only additionial aspect/source of a character's wmotional temperament that I can think of. But surely there must be more than just Personality, upbringing, environment, age, values, destiny and past events, right?

  56. RBH - I agree :)

    Andreas - interesting points and examples! Those are certainly some strong characters with interesting tales to share :)

  57. Oh fun! It's weird, I always start with a sense of my characters, then I do a few questionnaires and get to know them a little more, then by the third or fourth draft I feel I really know them and I start doing the questionnaires for fun! So it's neat to try to find one word to encapsulate each one :-)

  58. Deniz - it really is! I love that process of getting to know the characters! So much fun :)

  59. I have character profile templates my editor sent me for all my characters. This helps to keep them diverse and track their emotional states and what pushes their buttons. They are very helpful. I couldn't write my books without them.

  60. Stephen - sounds like a great idea! I never keep track of things in writing like that - but I probably should! :)

  61. Excellent! I can't believe I almost missed this. Thanks to Stina, I didn't.

  62. Matt - Becca always has such excellent advice! :)