Friday, July 3, 2009

Show Me Your Angry Face!

Okay, I'm gonna spill. Are you guys ready for this? I feel like I need one of those Monday Night Wrestling voices. You know the kind. Arrrrre youuuu rrrrrready? Imagine a deep voice with thousands of cheering fans and grown men in spandex. Are you there? Then you're ready for this confession.

*whispers* I'm less than stellar at emotional writing.

Enter Christine, the topic-starter for this chain, and one of the best critique buddies on the planet. We started a crit group in January. She read one of my novels. What'd she say?

You guessed it: "You suck at emotional writing."

Well, not in those exact words. *wink, wink*

But she was right. She made me look at a whole new side of writing--the emotions.

Not just the where, what, who, when, and how of where the characters were and what they were doing. But the WHY. And then the HOW WOULD THEY FEEL HERE?

She'd say things like, "This section is good, but the emotions are off."


How does one fix that? By being authentic. I write YA, so I had to dig down to the repressed memories of junior high and high school. And let me tell you, those memories are repressed for a reason, people. Sure, it's easy for Christine, she works with those kids all the time.

For me? Not so much.

So what I did: I treated EMOTION as another sense. Just like we want to use all five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch) in our writing to make it bloom and come alive, I added a Sixth Sense. And it's not dead people. (hahaha!)

It's Emotion. I use it like a spice, just like I use smell and sound and taste. I sprinkle it in throughout my writing to make sure all the senses are addressed. I believe this really gives the writing more depth, more layers, more authenticity.

I mean, after all, we want our readers to FEEL SOMETHING when they read our stuff, right? Sometimes we can do that just by our awesome narrative and dialog. Sometimes, though, we need to sprinkle in a smell to really set the scene. Or a taste to really ground them in the story. Or the emotion to make sure they stay awake until 3 AM turning pages.
I believe Emotion is the most powerful sense and shouldn't be skipped over. I think you know when you have enough. When you read it and feel a little zing go through you as if you just experienced the scene with the character in every way (meaning through sight, sound, taste, smell, tough and emotion). And if you don't know, give it to Christine! Ha ha! She'll tell you if you suck, trust me. *wink, wink, wink*

Michelle posted before me in this chain, and Annie will be up tomorrow.

How would you answer Christine's questions? Here they are: How do you add emotional depth to your stories? How do you know when you have enough emotional content? How do you keep it authentic?


Anonymous said...

I love this post - it is AWESOME. The analogy of using emotions like a spice...perfect!

And for the record - you do NOT suck at writing emotion. *wink*

Stina said...

Adding emotional depth is something I pretty strong at. I had one of my teen beta reader crying at several emotional parts in my last book. :0) I don't deliberated whether I have enough emotional content or if it's authentic. It just feels right.

Katie Salidas said...

Use emotions like a spice. I love that idea!!

Windy said...

Great post! I think Christine's asked some really good questions and your approach one the "sprinkling" is good. Personally, I'm a pretty emotional person and it just shows up in my writing, whether I want it to or not ;-) ... probably something to do with watching a music video when I was expecting our 2nd baby that made me cry and have to put what I felt on paper... and here we are now! LOL!

Michelle McLean said...

Having emotion be the sixth sense on your list is a great idea (and thanks, now I'll be reliving that stupid "I see dead people" scene over and over...and I only watched the movie once over a decade ago *le sigh*) :D

Awesome post with some great tips!

Angela Ackerman said...

This is why Becca and I started the Emotion Thesaurus--because writing character emotion can be so dang hard!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Great thoughts. I have a sixth sense that I look at when writing too, and like you it's not dead people. I think of it as intuition. So maybe I'll go with seven senses from now on. Sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, intuition, and emotion.

One of my crit partners is forever asking me for viseral responses--key to showing emotion, rather than telling.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Ooh, emotion as the sixth sense - very very cool. And I agree when writing it is the most powerful sense, and the one most likely to keep me up until 3am reading a book.

Danyelle L. said...

I like you're thought of emotion as the sixth sense! I tend to write in close third, so I'm in the character's head the entire time. Emotion--thoughts and feelings--is probably the sense I use the most. I'm working at incorporating more of the others to make the texture shine. :D

Unknown said...

Love how you made emotion a sixth sense. Somehow, that clicked perfectly in my mind.

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

I write YA, so I had to dig down to the repressed memories of junior high and high school.

You poor, poor woman. My shoulder is here for you to cry on if you need it. :-)

From the snippets I've read of your stuff on the blogs, I think you do a great job with emotion. (Even if you don't consider yourself an emotional writer.)

Annie Louden said...

Fun post! And the writing filled me with the emotion of, I guess mirth, because I was laughing.

I'm sorry your high school memories are repressed. Mine are too. This is why I've yet again abandoned my YA book.

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