Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I'm good with that.
Emotion can suck your reader into the story. It can make them read for hours on end without coming up for air. Lack of emotion, on the other hand, will make your readers grow tired of the story. It will give them a reason to put the book down, and we don't ever want to give them that reason.
So, how do you write emotion?
1. The first thing to remember is that your characters should come across as real people. That means that they will feel every emotion a real person would feel. Use your imagination and put yourself in your character's place. How would you feel if that scenario was happening to you?
2. Every emotion has a corresponding physical reaction. If you're feeling worried, you might find your stomach clenching. If you're under a lot of stress, your chest might get tight. If you're trying not to cry, you might find your throat starting to hurt. Tap into the physical manifestations of emotion as well as the ... emotional ... aspects of emotion.
3. Don't overdo it. I frequently see authors make the mistake of over-dramatizing the moment. The character isn't just sad - she experiences waves and waves of despair and she can't stop crying and she feels broken and ... we start to lose patience. Or he hears a joke and he's laughing so hard that he's wiping tears from his eyes and he's pounding the table. The joke wasn't actually that funny ... Keep the emotion appropriate to the situation.
4. Avoid emotion words. Happy, sad, scared, whatever ... they're too flat and don't do a thing for me. Instead, show me how the character felt. Avoid "She was happy."
Okay, shall we see some examples?
Example A: "Jenny was happy. She had just passed her history final with an A. Now she could prove to her mom that she could get good grades. She was relieved."
Example B: "Jenny looked at the grade on the top of her paper and her hands started to shake. It was an A. An A? Really? She glanced around, wondering if anyone would notice if she suddenly started dancing. Now she could prove to her mom that she could get good grades. She took a deep breath, feeling her stress drain out of her fingertips."
Okay, the first example was purposely flat, but do you see the point I'm making here? Bringing in emotion enlivens the piece. It also helps us get to know the character, and - something we all want - we get to feel some of what the character feels.
Take a scene from your book and bring in some emotion. Remember, your characters are people too, and they should get to feel just like a real person.