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Posts tagged ‘Dorothy Allison’

Masters of emotion: five books that show how to convey character emotions

Recently, I wrote a post about character emotions and how to write about the body. Below are five books from my reading library that show different ways of conveying character emotions:

1. Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Note her use of specific detail, imagery, and metaphor to show bodily feelings and her characters’ emotions.

2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Notice how his spare language conveys the post-apocalyptic world of his setting and characters.

3. Elegy for Iris by John Bayley. The author writes about his wife Iris Murdoch, a well-known author, and her decent into Alzheimer’s disease. Notice the way he describes both her emotional state and his own through specific details.

4. Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard. Notice how the characters’ dialogue so effectively conveys their emotions and shows us who they are.

5. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. Allende is a passionate Chilean writer. Notice how her passion underlies every sentence of her work and how it pulls you into the story.

I hope you enjoy these! Please share some of your favorite books that are good examples of how to describe character emotions.

Character emotions: two ways to write about the body

When we experience different emotions, our bodies have physiological reactions. When we’re afraid our heart rate increases, when we’re angry our blood pressure rises, when we’re in love our body releases certain chemicals. As a writer, it might seem natural to describe our characters’ emotions by writing about how their body feels.

The problem is that these descriptions can quickly become overused and clichéd. Beginning writers, especially, make these mistakes, but I’ve also seen far too much published work that reaches for the quick cliché.

Unfortunately, I’m no exception. I wrote poetry for years before I began writing stories. A natural at imagery and metaphor, I had no idea how to do so many other things—like write about the body. I’ll share some of my early examples as long as you don’t “roll your eyes:” Read more