It’s partly a snapshot of a political movement (Greenpeace); partly a real-life thriller (what happens when Greenpeace activists are arrested during a direct action); and partly a prison soap opera (they’re arrested in Russia… yikes).
This could have been a turgid read, but where Ben Stewart succeeds is by zeroing in on the individual stories, and teasing out not only the fearfulness of the situation but also the ridiculousness.
I’ll admit that, when I first heard about The Emotion Thesaurus, I reacted against the whole concept. It’s a reference book full of ‘beats’ of action (he bit his lip! he ripped at his hair!), which you can insert into your fiction to show the reader how a character is feeling, rather than telling them.
But… but… (I spluttered, rending my garments to show I was aggravated…) your beats should come organically! You should know your characters so well that their actions come to you automatically! You should strive for originality in your writing, not all this lip-biting/hair-ripping!
Of course, that’s the ideal and therefore not real life. In real life, you’re editing something and you’ve read it so many times that you basically want to die and goddammit you just can’t think of a way to convey to the reader that the character is angry (short of dropping in “he said angrily” — oh sweet sweet adverbs!). In that situation, The Emotion Thesaurus feels like it was sent from heaven. *angels singing*
In the few weeks since I purchased this book, it’s become close to invaluable to me. I do wish some of the suggested beats were less clichéd. You can find yourself in the situation of swapping out a tacky adverb and replacing it with a tacky cliché, which is hardly a step up. Nonetheless, in a pinch, it’s great (she said, biting her lip).