In honor of the book launch, I managed to catch Becca in my interview net and brought her over here to answer a few questions!
Becca, you and Angela have compiled a wonderful collection of resources for writers on your site: emotional indicators, settings, character traits, and even color and weather descriptors! How did such a cool idea get started?
Back in 2004, I had just joined Critique Circle and my first critique group, not knowing at the time that one of the members, Angela Ackerman, was a complete and utter genius. One of the few things I knew for sure was that my characters were always shifting their feet, narrowing their eyes, and fidgeting. Very repetitive. Super annoying. But I didn’t know how else to show their feelings. So I started a list of physical cues for some of the more common emotions.
Right about then, Angela opined that her characters were always biting their lips, nodding, and smiling or frowning. When everyone else in the group responded that they struggled with the same thing, I shared my bare-bones list of emotional indicators. We agreed to contribute to the list and Angela kept a master copy.
When it came time to start the The Bookshelf Muse, we discussed at length what kind of blog we'd like to have. We decided that we wanted to offer resources to other writers in a format that would keep people coming back for more. So we started with that list of cues (back then, called the Please Beat Me over the Head Beat List). (Miriam: I LOVE that name!) When writers responded so enthusiastically to The Emotion Thesaurus, we started looking for other descriptive areas to highlight, and the rest of the resources followed.
Related to the first question, how did you find all the different movements and indicators that you use in The Emotion Thesaurus? Was there a specific place you went to research them? A specific person you asked?
I did consult some professional websites for information on the stronger emotions (panic, grief, rage, etc.), but for my part, my research almost exclusively involved observation. I started making notes while watching movies--seeing what the actors’ bodies were doing when they experienced certain emotions. I did the same thing while observing real people, though that felt a little creepy. Because Angela and I collaborated on all of the entries in The Emotion Thesaurus, our combined observations led to some pretty lengthy lists of cues.
The Emotion Thesaurus is such a great tool. (And as someone whose characters clench their hands together ALL THE TIME, I'm not just saying that.) What's next for you and The Bookshelf Muse?
Gosh, that’s a question Angela and I are always asking. The Emotion Thesaurus has been so well received, we like the idea of publishing more thesauri down the road and making expanded versions available. But for now, we’re just trying to make this first launch successful and learn as much as we can about marketing and promo along the way.
And the last and most important question: who is your favorite Avenger and why?
Well, I must admit that I haven’t seen the movie. My husband, who has many wonderful qualities, has an inexplicable distaste for movies based on comic books, so I don’t get to see many of them. What I HAVE seen is Snow White and the Huntsmen, or as I like to call it, Snow White and that Totally Tasty Guy From The Avengers Poster. So I guess I’d have to say that Thor takes the cake, hands down.
(Hard to argue with that.)
Thanks for such a great interview, Becca! And if any of you lovely readers would like to check out The Emotion Thesaurus (which I highly recommend) here are some links!
How about you? Do your characters have any annoying tics? And who IS the best Avenger of them all?