The Emotional Wound Thesaurus – Book Review

Emotional Wound Thesaurus

Because the fiction I write is based on my own past and overcoming emotional wounds, the discovery of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus was all the more important for me to learn to develop unique and layered female protagonists. Even though the conflict and themes of my current and future novels will somewhat reflect my own experiences, I also desire to write for and create relatable characters for women of all backgrounds.

For my current novel project, I’m covering the lives and backgrounds of 3 distinct women who also happen to be sisters. And because they share many of the same childhood wounds, it’s very important for me to demonstrate their responses to those experiences in different ways. From their ages at the time of the experience, to their birth order and different personalities, having access to the details provided by The Emotional Wound Thesaurus was key to defining each woman’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, and the lies they believe at the start of the story. Then, as a part of my pre-writing strategy, I was able to branch out to the other resources available on One Stop for Writers, including their database of Negative Traits, Positive Traits, Emotions and Rural Settings to help me uncover how the sisters will experience different memories and emotional triggers based on visiting their grandmother’s house.

But enough about my specific project! If you want to learn more about how I’ve used these resources, you can read my previous posts or view my rookie YouTube videos HERE.

Five Tips to Using The Emotional Wound Thesaurus for Writing Any Novel

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus

I’ve heard the notion that parts of who we are as people are reflected in the characters we write. Often, our first novel represents ourselves in part or in whole more than any other. I see it as a form of therapy as we work out our own personalities and struggles in the safe space of a fictional world. However, eventually, I’d like to write characters that are not like me at all! Perhaps an alter ego, or a story inspired by something I see on the news or hear about from friends.

Though my current WIP is based on the true experiences, resulting traits, beliefs, and growth processes of me and my sisters, the process of discovering the details of the fictional characters has shown me how to create future characters that are nothing like me or anyone else I may know.

  1. Forward and Intro Sections. Whether you think you know your characters or not, read the first 40 pages of this book! If you’re not sure about your character’s wounds yet, skim the table of contents and choose a few that seem to fit with your story concept. But then, go back and read the beginning chapters which offer exceptional insights on Self-Care for Writers (especially important if you’ll be exploring wounds that are close to your own personal experiences), The Mirror of Fiction: a Reflection of Life and Our Deeper Selves, What is an Emotional Wound?, Character Arc: an Internal Shift to Embrace Change, and more. Even though I’d already used the online database of wounds to develop my characters, I still had several breakthroughs and “ah-ha” moments in understanding my fictional sisters and how to convey the various parts of their journey in my story.
  2. Consider the PRIMARY Emotional Wound and choose two additional wounds. You may–as I did and especially if you’re basing your main character after a part of your own life–begin to see overlapping characteristics related to multiple wounds. This will help you to discover the dominating negative and positive traits, triggers, fears and responses for your character. In turn, you’ll be able to highlight these for fiction and the purpose of your story without overwhelming your reader with too many issues for your character to tackle. However, this process will help in knowing your character on a deeper level that should help in developing scenes, writing dialogue, or even choosing hobbies, family status, or a career path.
  3. Multiple POVs. This is the first time I’ve attempted writing a novel with the point of view of three distinct women. Having access to The Emotional Wound Thesaurus has been a vital part in giving each woman a unique back story, personality, and voice despite the fact that they are sisters.
  4. Add Your Own Elements. I’m certain this resource isn’t intended to be an end-all-be-all, but more of a spring-board of potential. Though there are realistic and unrealistic manners in which someone will respond to an emotional wound, there are ways to modify these responses depending on your character. For example, the oldest sister in my story, Sadie, is still in the process of overcoming the wound of “Becoming a Caregiver at an Early Age”. As a result, she’s avoided becoming a parent herself. Instead, she has a dog to fulfill her need of caring for another being, but also sees it as “safer” than becoming a mom and she can practice being “overprotective” without rejection or push back. I came up with this detail on my own as it seemed to fit Sadie’s personality.
  5. Emotional Wounds are Directly Related to Positive and Negative Traits. Even if you don’t analyze your characters or dive as deeply into their wounds as I have for mine, you’ll find this resource helpful in creating rounded characters. This goes for your protagonist, supporting characters, and even the villain. On the most basic level, choose a wound and a few associated negative and positive traits and you’ve got yourself a unique character attempting to overcome the past while battling a conflict in the present.

Once you’ve explored the surface of this excellent resource and all the possibilities, you might say what my daughter said when I attempted to explain my excitement about discovering The Emotional Wound Thesaurus:

“How has anyone ever written a novel without it?”

Pros and Cons for the Christian Writer

As much as I absolutely LOVE these resources, I’m finding I need to use some discernment when it comes to interpreting wounds, overcoming them, and applying the process of a character arc to my particular project.

Due to the content of my stories digging deep into the lives of women, many of whom are not Christians at the start and may not be by the end, the one element that seems to be missing, at least in detail, is the need for spiritual fulfillment. Though Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is explained and displayed as a graphic in the introductory section of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, I would have to argue that “spiritual enlightenment” isn’t only obtained at the top-tier or “Self-Actualization” stage.

In fact, knowing God, believing Him, and seeking comfort, peace, and trust in Him during the lower levels of the hierarchy could make all the difference! It did for me in my personal life, and I intend to make it work in realistic, yet profound ways for at least some of my characters. I would never have come to terms with some of the emotional wounds I experienced from childhood without seeing how those wounds could be turned into a purpose and a focus for doing good based on God’s plan for my life.

One of the reasons why I write is so that others will know they are not alone in their experience, in their struggles, and in their desire to overcome challenges and make the most of things regardless of their past and past choices.

In that regard, I’ve also been able to persevere as a writer, and continue to pursue my calling to write about women overcoming deep and difficult circumstances while overcoming my own in real life!


  1. So very glad you were able to find help in this book and gain new insight on your characters’ motivations. You are clearly digging deep and this will only help the authenticity of these characters, so kudos! I found your observations on religious beliefs interesting and have a few thoughts to consider. In regards to Maslow & Self-Actualization, it is never an all or nothing (as in S-A is always sacrificed for others and so that greater fulfillment is a one-time thing), more that it comes in snippets…we work on self-actualizing (so in your case, strengthening the connection with God) when there’s time and the other needs aren’t stealing energy because they’ve reached that critical tipping point where we are pressed to act.

    S-A actually has a lot of layers to it because deep down it motivates us “most of all” in a very underlying way as we have a deep need to grow, and become someone better, stronger, someone more secure in who we are and our place in the world. This universal need is always driving us, which is why we are always looking for context (mentioned in the opening) and we are sponges for knowledge. I imagine we’ll go more into S-A if we ever write a Character Motivation book. I think knowledge, spiritual connection, meaningful goals, passion for these stay with us always but it is the time and energy we put into the care and feeding of them that I would say is dependent on the critical things that come up that we must steer our energy to because they are more urgent. I hope this helps a bit. :)

    1. Hi Angela! It’s been several years since I took a college course that covered Maslow’s theory, so perhaps my brief interpretation didn’t give it justice. That plus being an avid watcher of crime-based drama, the motivational factor has always interested me. I’ve definitely been in those places where survival trumped seeking a fulfilling spiritual experience, yet it’s in those places where God met me on a deeper level than He ever had when life was “going well.” More than religion and beliefs, I’ve found my relationship with God needs to be first no matter what point I’m at in life between surviving and thriving. It’s this unique point of overcoming both internal and external circumstances with strength that’s beyond ourselves I hope to convey in my writing. And what you’ve provided in this resource has been a huge help in making me dig deep and not just put the bandage of “salvation” or “just have faith” on a wound and considering it healed without effort. I hope you can see my mention of this element in regard to those who write and read Christian fiction is more about being aware. It was not meant as a criticism (if you took it that way), but more as something to consider if a character or story line doesn’t fit the mold of typical Christian fiction. Your comment is helping me to hone in on what my intentions were (and perhaps cause for another blog post on the topic!) — But I think that a lot of Christian fiction portrays bad things happening to good people —
      more of an “external” struggle than an internal one, at least in regard to fighting temptation or reacting (even backsliding) when circumstances trigger past wounds. It’s hard to explain without using some very specific and personal examples of my real life! :) I’ll definitely consider your comments and probably read through the first 50 or so pages several times over as I continue the writing/editing process of my WIP for NaNoWriMo. On that note, my “self-actualization” comes in the form of having the freedom to write, which I have a hard time doing if my other needs are not met. Sometimes I have to let certain things go and write anyway, but I’m more fulfilled and satisfied when I don’t feel I’ve neglected the basic needs of myself and family in the process. Again, thank you for this! I can’t wait to see how my 50,000 words turn out in light of having all of your amazing resources at my fingertips. :)

  2. Gosh no, I didn’t see this as a criticism at all–in fact this led to a great conversation between Becca and I and how we can expand on motivation and Maslow’s pyramid to dig deeper into S-A if we choose to do turn the Character Motivation Thesaurus into a book (and I believe we will). I think there is a lot to be explored about self actualization, and, once certain beliefs are fully actualized and become part of one’s identity, they will factor in more deeply at all points of a character’s life, good times and bad. Religion is one great example of a core belief that can transcends a person, and therefore that belief and relationship will become paramount and influence all aspects of motivation. But this book’s focus is emotional wounds and the fears that can take hold and overthrow everything else. So I was just trying to explain why we approached this the way we did. I hope that makes sense. ;)

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