Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Delivering Emotion

Posted by Eileen Astels

Revealing, or showing emotion in your writing isn't the easiest thing to do, but boy is it worth taking the time to do right.

Think of the last book you read that made your throat tighten, salty tears fall to your lips, your stomach muscles coil, laughter erupt, or a smile take shape on your face. How did it feel to you as the reader? Were you engrossed in the story? Where you feeling what the character felt at that particular moment in the story world? Where you experiencing that fictional world as if you were that character?

The answer to any one of those questions is reason enough to study and learn how to infuse emotion in your writing. The sources of such study are endless. There are writer's manuals galore that touch on how to show emotion and there are whole books dedicated to the topic, such as Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias, and then there are online courses you can take and online lecture packets you can order, such as Margie Lawson's Empowering Character's Emotions. One of my critique partners took this course of Margie Lawson's and she's now writing the creepiest scenes in her suspense thriller wip (work in progress) that literally make me feel isolated, frightened, and even humiliated, depending on the scene, to name a few. So I know this one is worth taking a look at.

Many excellent bloggers also post on how to bring emotion to the page, so google it up and start surfing the web to fill your emotional tool box. The more ways you discover to infuse emotion in your writing the better your story will be.

Here's a few of the ways I've learned so far to make emotion shine:

Utilize your setting: If you want a joyful happy scene, try bringing bright colored objects into the setting, funny paintings and comfy chairs. Make the setting a place your characters can be happy in.

Also, if you want to evoke a sense of unease, you might want to consider adding cold, cracked cement, a mist in the air, or some other form of visual hardship. Anything that spells out 'unease' to you is likely to give your reader the same feeling. Use the setting that you describe in narrative and dialogue to help the desired emotion seep into the reader as well.

Deep POV: By writing in deep POV you can offer more of your characters thoughts that are triggered by his or her feelings and mood. If your character is frightened, they aren't going to be thinking of the best play date they had as a child likely, their mind might, however, take them to a time that they were trapped in a trunk and felt the wood closing in on them and the heat from their breath making them sweat and want to scream.

The Five Senses: Taste, Touch, Smell, See, and Hear--use as many of these as you can to reveal your character's state-of-mind. You as the writer have control over what your character senses at any particular time. Even if your character is at a county fair, the reader doesn't need to know that she passed by a cotton-candy booth if she's running from a confident attacker, but hey, what about her passing by one of those vendors selling smoked turkey legs. She could smell the rotting meat from the garbage can, hear the buzzing frenzy of flies feeding off it, and see strewn turkey legs on the butcher block ready to be tossed into the kiln. Gives a whole other feel, doesn't it? And it's the one we're after, so go for it.

Okay, that's got my creativity juices flowing, so I'll leave you with that and hope that it helps you, too, to up the emotional impact of your writing! Please share the tools you use to create emotion in your writing in the comment section so that we can all learn together.




Pamela J said...

I have to say, you opened my eyes to a great amount of possibilities for emotion and what emotion-writing does. I know how something is written causes the emotion within but haven't torn these spots apart to figure out why I feel that way. Thanks for all you wrote. I will be watching more closely now.
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Molly Noble Bull said...

Good article.

Terri Tiffany said...

I enjoyed this article. It made me go back to a scene I have been struggling with and try to make it come more alive. Thanks!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I'm glad it helped Pam and Terri. The more I learn the more I realize that each concept I learn is a multi-faceted in this craft. And the more we can convey in one short sentence when writing tight is paramount, all the better!

All the best with your writing!