Writing Advice: Heightening Emotion

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interesting thing, grief, it dulls but never quite goes away. Or am I missing something? As silly as this sounds, I'm trying to capture my emotions this week in order to make the emotions truer in my story. Can you spell WEIRD? 

This week, twenty years ago, I lost my father. He collapsed in our kitchen and never regained consciousness. This week thirteen years ago, I lost my daughter. She was born too soon after myriad attempts to salvage the pregnancy (long story). But my point in this is not to have a pity party, but to really focus on the ebb and flow of emotion. Sometimes it grabs me by the throat--when I see babies, or teenagers that would have been Tara's age--but for the most part it lies dormant. Every now and again, I'll see an elderly man whose hair (or lack of!) reminds me of my dad and I'll remember his silly sense of humor. His crooked smile. His dimples. Then it all fades and I go on. 

It's important to show trueness of emotion in our stories. Brandilyn Collins called it "emotion recall." You write your characters' emotions based on your own experiences. It's worth it, in the middle of an emotion, (ok, maybe not *right* in the middle, people will call for the men in white suits) to stop an analyze what triggered it,  to consider the reaction that followed, how long it lasted, and what helped soothe the emotion. This is where the "open a vein when you write" comes in to play. Sometimes we have to relive bad experiences to breathe freshness and genuineness into the emotions of our characters.

If you've never experienced grief, that's okay, I'm sure you have experienced all the emotions that the various stages of grief drags people through: shock/denial, pain/guilt, anger, depression, acceptance, reconstruction, hope. Use those emotions as the basis for writing a character who is grieving, because grief is really all those emotions balled together.

Do you ever journal about your emotions?

Picture by http://www.hospicepiedmont.org/index.php?content=grief_support

1 comments:

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

The best books are the ones that touch me deeply, and the ones that touch me deeply are the ones that show real emotion. Not easy, but I always try to pour a little bit of my own experiences onto the pages when I write.

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