Book Review: “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma” by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

emotional wound thesaurus coverLink to Goodreads page

My rating: 5/5

Category: Non-fiction, creative writing guide.

Where did I find this book? I purchased it from the Kobo store online.

Why did I purchase this book? I bought this along with a couple of other Writers Helping Writers guides. I read it first because it will help with the backstory and motivation for a main character I am currently writing.

Layout and should the book be read in a particular way? Aside from the introductory section, this book doesn’t have to be read straight through. There may even be parts of it you will never need or don’t want to read.

The book is structured with a series of introductory chapters dealing with things such as, what is an emotional wound?, character arc, brainstorming, the villain’s journey, revealing the emotional wound through behaviour, problems to avoid among others. This introduction works well to set up the reader and help them understand the function and structure of the actual thesaurus section.

The bulk of the book is divided into several main groupings with sub-topics (the events causing the emotional wounds). For instance, the first section is Crime and Victimisation. Within that, there are events such as a home invasion, being held captive, or identity theft. Each sub-topic is then assessed using several criteria. These are:

  • Examples
  • Basic needs often compromised
  • False beliefs
  • What the character may fear
  • Possible responses
  • Personality traits that may form
  • Triggers
  • Opportunities to face or overcome the wound

At the back of the book, there are a series of Appendices. These include a useful flowchart a writer can use to crosscheck each of the elements required for a believable wounding event, a character arc progression tool (including a link to a printable version), and examples of emotional wounds in popular stories to illustrate the process at work in existing material.

What did I think of the book? The book was well set out and clear, with good examples and reasoning behind the discussions. I especially liked the inclusion of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as the driving force behind the emotional response to events. The book appears to be US-centric. If you are writing a novel or story set in the US, it is very useful for someone who has not grown up or lived there, especially for understanding extreme emotional responses to certain things, such as the high cost of healthcare, or gun crime for example.

I did not read the book straight through, aside from the introductory chapters. I focussed on the emotional events that were of interest to me and skimmed the remainder. I don’t feel this detracted from my reading of the book in any way, after all, if you are looking for something in a traditional thesaurus, you don’t need to read the whole thing to find the word you seek.

I thought it was useful the authors included both positive and negative personality traits that might develop from experiencing traumatic events. I think we have a tendency to assume negative events will always have a negative influence on our psyche. However most things can have benefits if we take the time to look for them; the what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or silver lining effect.

I found the Appendices at the back of the book are particularly helpful, notably the printable character arc progression tool.

Would I recommend this book and to whom? Yes, I would recommend this book, primarily to writers, especially if they struggle with identifying their character’s main motivation or need. It also works as a checklist to make sure you’ve written a well-rounded character backstory or emotional response. Anyone who enjoys the psychology of trauma, in general, may find this book a worthwhile read purely for interest’s sake.

Where can I buy the book? According to the title is available from:

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Have you read this book? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma” by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

    Sólo diré: qué pena. Y me refiero al artículo, el título Book Review: “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma” by
    Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi es recomendable, quizás.


    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Apologies, I had to use Google translate, but I think I got the idea of it. (I am terrible with languages). It is a shame that a book with the words ‘guide’ and ‘psychological trauma’ in the title even exists, let alone gets a review. But life doesn’t always come in happy packages and I feel writing about horrible things can help with acceptance or understanding/empathy. So for writers who may not have experienced certain things, this is invaluable.


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