Thursday, July 9, 2009
Blog chain time, and the topic comes from the always awesome Christine:
How do you add emotional depth to your stories? How do you know when you have enough emotional content? And how do you keep it authentic?
This is a tough question. Emotion isn't like setting where you can do research or imagine a place you've been before. And it isn't like character where you can borrow traits of people you know, or in the case of some of my characters - people that I actually hope to never know.
The point, is that these are more concrete things, where as emotion is a little more difficult to grab hold of with two hands so that the necessary details can be wrung out onto the page.
When I first read this question, I honestly didn't know how I put emotion into my stories, and I'm not really certain how effectively I do it either. I am a big fan of using a lot of internal thoughts/dialogue in my writing, and I think that by letting readers into a characters' heads, you are getting a glimpse of their hearts as well.
Maybe the most important thing when writing emotion is to follow that often recited writing rule: Show, don't tell.
To be perfectly honest I usually think this rule is kind of obnoxious, because sometimes you just need to tell the reader something straight out, and not beat around the bush with a bunch of showing.
However, when it comes to emotion I cannot think of many instances where:
He had a temper tantrum.
His screaming mouth was rounded into a wide O of outrage. The wail that poured out seemed to be pulled all the way up from his tiny little toes, and it went on for so long he lost his breath. The tears that ran down his round cheeks were almost an afterthought.
Hopefully, the second example works better at conveying the emotions displayed during a toddler's temper tantrum.
Of course, toddler's emotions are always on the surface - they haven't yet figured out how to hide them or hold them in. Still, there are ways to show a character's anger, even if they are not the type to kick and scream and generally throw a fit.
Does that answer the questions? I think it kind of does, but you can follow along the chain to read a bunch of other answers that are even better. Carolyn's answer was right before mine, and Kat will be posting her own take on the subject tomorrow.
And I'd also like to know - how do you convey emotion in your own writing? Do you believe in the show, don't tell technique? Or have you found another way to get all those pesky feelings across?