It’s difficult to write about deep painful emotions, even in our characters, unless we’ve experienced them. And, even then, it’s not an easy task.
Strong emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes we numb ourselves or run away in order to avoid our feelings. I used to do that until I realized on some level that the emotions would fester inside me until I actually did the work of processing my feelings and healing myself. The advantage of doing this when you’re a writer is that you can use what you learn about your emotions to deepen your characters. I wrote about this earlier in “Draw on personal pain to write believable characters.”
But I want to delve deeper into this subject today because I’m working on a scene in my novel where I’m trying to understand the complicated grief my antagonist has about his sister’s death and how it motivates him to do bad things.
Grief is one of the most complicated emotions because it can have shades of guilt, shame, anger, and other feelings mixed in. Read more
Let’s face it, writing body language is hard. In my first drafts, I either try to stay away from writing body language, or I just face the fact that it will be all cliched and awful and I’ll have to rewrite it from the ground up.
Thanks to writing teacher Margie Lawson, I’ve been learning tips for writing better body language and using tools like back-loaded sentences, cadence, and rhetorical devices.
For tips on writing body language with examples and break downs of those examples, read Margie’s latest post here.
Also, check out my earlier post, “Character emotions: two ways to write about the body,” that shows how author Dorothy Allison writes body language.
If you’d like to share some of your experiences or tips about writing about body language, please do so in the comments below.
Below are three posts from me and Carly about enhancing the emotional landscape of your characters and stories.
In the post “Find your story’s emotional throughline” Carly writes about a babysitting experience she had where she learned about subtext–finding the real meaning beneath an event.
“Enrich your characters’ and readers’ emotional experience with these cues,” is a post about helping readers connect with your character’s emotions.
“Try these techniques to amplify emotion in your writing,” examines the use of anaphora to enhance your story’s emotional impact.
Readers pick up a book to have an emotional experience. They want to connect with characters on an emotional level that will eventually, by the end of the story, enrich their own lives. (Tweet this).
Readers don’t want to be told how a character feels. They want to experience the emotion themselves. Dialogue is one way to convey or show character emotion, but much of a character’s emotion is nonverbal.
In The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the authors break down nonverbal communication into three elements: physical signals (body language and actions), internal sensations (visceral reactions) and mental responses (thoughts).
In their book, the authors list over seventy emotions, such as anger, depression, doubt, excitement, happiness, loneliness, relief, and sadness, and offer suggestions on how these emotions can be shown through the three elements above. Read more
When you can convey authentic, universally true emotions through your characters, you connect with your readers and they’ll keep turning the pages. Your readers become invested in your story the moment they viscerally feel what your character feels.
See what else the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson, has to say about writing emotions in her 5-minute video here: Read more
Literary agent and writing teacher Donald Maass says the most successful novels of the early 21st Century are beautifully written while telling powerful stories. He predicts less focus on genre and more focus on fiction that moves people.
What moves people? What connects readers to the heart of our characters? Emotions.
At the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference last month, Maass spoke about how to achieve an emotional landscape in our novels.
He says to ask yourself what new emotions you’ve experienced this year. Then ask: is there a place in your manuscript where a character can feel this emotion? Read more
Seven months into the year, and I realize I’ve been through so much: the passing of my mother, our two-week remodel that turned into nine-weeks, a mini-family reunion, and both expected and unexpected travel. I’ve had many different stressors and felt a gamut of emotions: sadness, grief, fear, love, joy, fatigue (well, maybe that last one isn’t exactly an emotion, but it should be!)
As I work on my next book—imagining my story and going deeper into my characters—I realize that my seven months have been a blessing, in more ways than one. Read more