Writer’s Toolbox: Composing Thesauri

   Posted by: Brent Toderash   in Writing Tips, Writing Tools & Exercises

I’ve taken notice of something that Angela Ackerman does on her blog, The Bookshelf Muse. She’s come up with a set of thesauri for emotions, colours, textures, shapes, symbolism, and settings, and she adds to them periodically. Recently she posted Setting Thesaurus Entry: Courtroom, and As I thought about her process, it seemed to make good sense.

When I’m writing, I can tend to be too focused on the action and advancing the plot (which isn’t a bad thing!) but too much can leave the finished scene feeling a little sterile, needing deeper investment in descriptives. This is where a thesaurus like Angela’s could be helpful.

In my current writing project, there are a number of scenes inside several different diners where I’ve set some conversation as the characters in this particular road story stop for a bite to eat. Strictly speaking, I need them to sit down, order and eat their burgers (or whatever), have their bit of conversation and move on. I’m typically not focused on the setting of the diner as much as I could be, describing some of the sights, sounds, and smells they find there. These meal stops on the road trip are intended to stop the action just for a bit, so adding more description here would really help not only the scene, but set the right pace for these parts of the novel.

Since I’m in the process of editing some of these scenes now, I think I’ll take a page from Angela’s book and sit down to brainstorm some words and phrases to describe some of these settings. That way as I edit or write new scenes, I’ll have a ready source of descriptors to use. Then of course, there’s her thesaurus entry for ‘diner’ as well.

Take a look at the sidebar on Angela Ackerman’s blog, and you see a long list of these thesaurus entries, covering a wide variety of emotions and settings. Each category list starts with a definition of what that particular thesaurus is, like the one for the setting thesaurus. Her list was clearly a lot of work to compile, but it now represents an invaluable resource in the midst of a writing project.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 3rd, 2010 at 8:33 pm and is filed under Writing Tips, Writing Tools & Exercises. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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