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Saturday, December 07, 2013


Writers' Guides: The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus – Review and Giveaway

When Angela Ackerman asked me to review The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, I wondered if the books would be able to help my current project. I love The Emotion Thesaurus, the first book she and Becca Puglisi co-authored, but my current project is a work-in-progress. I’ve been working with this character for some time and know him well. But I know the quality of their work so I asked them for copies of both books.

These books detail character traits, what leads to them and how each trait works within the story. In addition to the listings for each trait, there are sections on psychology and personal development and how character and story work together. Newer writers especially will benefit from this information.

These books are tools to improve your writing. The best way to see how they work is to use them.

I looked up my character’s greatest negative trait—insecure. I read Possible Causes and patted myself on the back. I’d worked both guilt and abandonment into my backstory.

Not every insecure person acts the same way and the list of Associated Behaviors is lengthy. Again, I found several behaviors already written into my story: My character focuses on swimming, his strength, to avoid academics, in which he feels weak. He also engages in negative self-talk while comparing himself to someone who does well in school, his brainy best friend.

These books are thorough, so I wasn’t surprised to find something that would improve my work. One insecure behavior is sticking close to people who make the character feel comfortable. If my character moves away from his best friend and toward a fellow jock, this could make his problem more difficult to solve. Apparently, I still have work to do where his negative traits are concerned.

Next, I looked up a strength; my character is funny. The causes for his humor include the positive (his offbeat way of looking at the world) and the negative (he needs affirmation and wants attention).

We often overlook negative aspects to positive traits but Ackerman and Puglisi include this in the listing for each positive trait. Being funny keeps people at a distance. In my story, this hides my character’s insecurity, a fact I need to play up to strengthen my story.

Ackerman and Puglisi list supporting character traits that may lead to conflict with a funny character. This list includes studious and focused which describes my character’s best friend. I need to use conflict between them to much greater advantage.

If you are rewriting, look to these books to help fine tune your story and make the most of your character’s and their personalities. For new works, the books can help you explore your characters and how to make their lives truly dreadful. Either way, your work is sure to benefit from these two reference books. The authors take such a thorough approach to the craft of character that you will come away from their books with new insight into your story.

Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

We also have a giveaway from the authors, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi! After that fabulous review, I'm sure you'll want to win this set for your writer's reference library. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes (ARV $14.99) AND The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws (ARV $14.99), or e-copies—reader's choice! The contest is open to US and Canada for print copies and internationally for e-copies. If you have problems using Rafflecopter, be sure you are running the latest version of your web browser and have javascript updated.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

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Blogger Unknown said...

Sue--These two books intrigue me. I too have a WIP (a NaNo from last year) and need all the help I can get, so I hope I win.

I'll keep my fingers crossed...

5:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love the thesauruses Angela and Becca put out. So much information!

6:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have the Emotions Thesaurus and it's an indispensable resource. Getting these 2 would give me an amazing character building trifecta!

6:57 AM  
Blogger Amber Polo said...

Love your books. Can't wait for the next one.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Sclew said...

These books would be a great help to anyone creating characters in fiction. How wonderful that Ackerman and Puglisi wrote them. I hope I am the lucky person who wins them. I can't wait to tell our Christian Writers group about them when we meet soon.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Carl Scott said...

What wonderful choices for a giveaway. I'm sure all authors, aspiring and published, could use these two books in their reference arsenal. Thanks very much for the chance to win them. Good luck everyone and Happy Holidays!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Audrey said...

What a fascinating idea...and what a great help in developing authentic characters in my writing!

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Emotion Thesaurus is such a practical tool that I can't wait to see these new resources!

10:13 AM  
Blogger Hope Clark said...

My copy of The Emotion Thesaurus is already dog-eared, and I talked my publisher into using in for her work! Would love to acquire these other two. Thanks!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

the last book I reviewed in my book review column could have used this book because her character switched motivations three times. This sounds like a great book for any writer, and I'd love to win one.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Stella Jones Myers said...

Love the idea of this. It could help with all characters: fictional and real.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Judy H said...

didn't know they existed, but now I want them.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Denise Jaden said...

Thrilled for Angela and Becca to have more books coming out! And they sound so useful. Congrats, ladies!

12:59 PM  
Blogger Angela Ackerman said...

Thank you all so much for the kind words, and Sue, for taking the time to do some character exploration using these books! I am thrilled it's helping you achieve a deeper understanding of your character and what motivates them.

When we understand what forces drive a character, it's so much easier to create roadblocks to make it harder for them to achieve their goals. I also find that the harder the struggle, the more satisfying it is when they overcome their weakness and emerge strong and whole!

Wishing everyone a wonderful and hopefully warm (it's -31 Celsius here!) Saturday! Good luck in the draw. :)


1:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love my emotion thesaurus! It's an amazing help!


2:04 PM  
Blogger Becca Puglisi said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, everyone. I learned so much during the process of writing these Trait books. Currently, I'm in the planning stage for a new novel and I'm so excited about using what I've learned to create characters with more depth that are realistic and unique.

Thank you, Sue, for this awesome review. Best of luck to everyone!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Monique Berry said...

These giveaways would be an asset for an editor who is always looking for ways to show and not tell!

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had these books on my wish list for a while and can see just how useful they are from this review.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Joy Keeney said...

I have and LOVE the Emotions Thesaurus!!

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't benefit much from the more basic how-to books at this point in my career. But this pairing of books was really helpful. No, I don't mean that they'd only benefit seasoned writers, but that they too would benefit. Good luck to all of you who enter the Raffle!

1:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've just discovered your blog and I love it! :) I've been reading The Bookshelf Muse for some time now and I have always been interested in these books. Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I already own the Emotion Thesaurus. Would love to add the two new books.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Angela Ackerman said...

I hope whoever wins finds them really helpful when it comes to character creation & enhancement. We've really tried to explore characterization on a deeper level here, encouraging readers to go beyond common traits and flaws to find ones that really suit the character and the arc of the story. Everyone has demons, fears, wounds. Those need to come out within the scope of the story, and they have a profound effect on personality!

Happy writing all and good luck!


4:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

These books sound great. I would use them often.

8:43 AM  
Blogger CharmedLassie said...

Loved The Emotion Thesaurus, just used it extensively in a round of edits, so have added these two straight to my wishlist for when I have a little spare money. I don't doubt they'll be very useful!

10:28 AM  

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