How Do You Show Emotion in Writing?
I hope you are all having a great week! I’m currently editing my MS to go out on submission. Scary. I know.
Hard to believe?
My current quandary is how to get several emotions to show in a character at once. Easy, right? Often, this is the hardest thing for me, but it’s the one thing that has the greatest pay-off for the reader. So I spend a lot of time on it.
So I thought I’d name some of the ways that help me get the emotion down on the screen.
Let’s start with a guy who does something bad to someone he loves.
Pretty generic, right?
Well, what if this person doesn’t feel bad about what he did? What if what he did was for self preservation? What if he really doesn’t love that person, but he’s faking it? How do you show all that?
For me, the real emotion, the raw, burrow-down-into-your-soul emotion comes from a different place than setting, action, and plot.
I’ve used several things to portray emotion in my characters, some work, some don’t–depends on the day and my mood. There really is no right or wrong way, just what works for the story and for you.
These are a few of the things that work for me… usually ;o)
- Compare the character’s situation to another (ie. simile) *winks at Leigh Ann*
- Repetition of words
- Forget about the grammar and just let it flow
- Dig into that awkward place inside you to bring it out. That place that you don’t really access all the time because what it brings out is not something you want expressed all the time. For emotion to be authentic, it’s important to access this place
- Search your soul and your memory for experiences in the past and how you felt at the time, and how you expressed those feelings at that time
- Listen to a good song and let those minor notes create the words you need
- Use empathy to try and figure out what the other character is feeling then work with/against that
- Paying attention to the rhythm of a sentence can illicit emotion in a reader too. Read it out-loud.
- Use the poignant details that were established early in the story in a scene where that one detail will cause the reader to associate that with the emotion you are trying to express. Huh? What? Yeah, it’s hard to explain that one. For example: You have a character with a memorable t-shirt or crazy hair or something. At the time it was introduced it didn’t seem that important, but let’s say that character dies and you have to watch that hair or t-shirt get buried under piles of dirt. It becomes emotional (or it should), because you’ve associated that t-shirt and hair with that person and watching that character get buried should be an emotional moment in the story.
Lots of excitement in the mosh pit!!
Have a wonderful rest of the week and holiday weekend (for the Americans)