Friday, July 10, 2009

Chain: Do you YOU! feel like I do?

Christine started this chain. Kate posted before me (and boy does it stink to be the last link).

So anyway, this time we're talking about emotions. Christine wants to know: 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?

I first read this question and thought: "This is like taking something intangible, plucking it out of thin air and holding onto it for dear life." But in a way, that's what fiction writers do.

Kind of.

We create characters from nothing, give them emotions and, hopefully, make our readers rejoice or laugh or cry or grieve over events that never really happened.

But how do I do that? Well, after taking my sweet time to mull the answer to that question, I came up with a list.

Here it is:

1. Know thy characters.

Certain people react certain ways to certain situations. (How many times can you use the word "certain" in a sentence?) By knowing the personalities of your characters, you give authenticity to their emotional reactions.

2. Conflict makes the fictional world go round. So, hey, what's the worst that could happen?

To answer this question, I close my eyes and let my brain scan the scenarios. When I get to one that makes my gut burn and my fingers tingle, I know I've found the answer.

3. Show me the emo.

Kate said it before me, and many have been saying it all along: Show, don't tell. Using strong verbs and vivid imagery, authors must pull their readers into the depths of a characters soul and make them feel exactly what the hero/heroine is feeling. Since writers don't have any other medium to accomplish this task, the correct words must be used.

4. Peel and onion, discover the layers within.

This goes along with Tip 1, knowing your characters. Revealing backstory (be careful) and subplots helps the readers understand the place from which those emotions are coming. This can help turn the emotional response factor of the reader from a minor surface wound to a massive hemorrhage.

5. Don't stop till you get enough. (As if we haven't had enough of MJ lately, huh?)

Others in the chain have mentioned this, too, but this is where the crit buddies come in. No matter how brilliant an author may be, it is impossible to accurately judge one's own work. It is imperative to get feedback from crit partners on whether or not your characters are responding appropriately and whether or not you've overwritten a scene.

So, there you go. Those are my responses. How about you? Do you feel the way I do?


lynnrush said...

Great post.
Know they characters and peel the onion.

LOVE that. It's exactly what I do. I live in their head. Seriously. Like, out while shopping or biking or whatever, I'll ask myself, "How would Emma respond." or "Oh, Shelby would think that was funny." You know, stuff like that.

Oh, and it's so fun to peel the onion, isn't it?? Love finding out where my characters are going to take me. **smile**

Great post. And nice song choice.

Have a great one, Kat.

Sandra said...

Last but definitely not least! You have some good tips in there!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Great description of the elements of character building. I agree with you: all these things are crucial in communicating emotion to the reader.

gzusfreek said...

Nice post, Kat. Helpful to me. I pull my characters' emotions from my own. Really trying to see how I would feel in their situations.

I sure learn a lot from you, Kat!

Keep up the good work!

ElanaJ said...

That was awesome! I love that list, and since I am the worst at emotional writing, I'm totally going to use this to fall back on when I feel like my writing is flat. Thanks, Kat! (Hey! That's a rhyme! Woot!)

And now I can't stop singing, "Don't stop till you get enough." LOVE MJ! :)

christinefonseca said...

I LOVE your answer - the list is freakin' brilliant!!! thanks.

Crimogenic said...

Great tips, Kat. Very well put. Making your readers feel the emotion is the ultimate goal. When talking of emotions in books, I always think of that scene in the Road when they are going down the stairs and a fear started to rise in my gut and I was on the edge of my seat, desperate and worry out of my mind for the MCs.

Lille Diane said...

Thank you for a great post! I just found you (ummmm as if you were lost....) Love your music, Kat!

PS female rocker here, too. Not bragging in any way nor am I a "kiss-n-tell" kinda girl but I used to date Pete's manager in the mid 70's. So I totally have a soft spot for the Frampster...

I'll be back!!

Eva Gallant said...

Wow! As someone who's just trying my hand at fiction, I can't believe I was lucky enough to stumble on this! I'm signing up as a follower because I'm eager to learn all I can!

C.J. Koster said...

Love your work. You have a really great blog! I'll definitely be coming back to check out more. Keep it up!

Michelle McLean said...

awesome post! I love your list, excellent tips! (and I now have several songs running through my head) :D Knowing your characters, creating conflict for them, really showing their emotions, digging through the layers, and listening to the awesome crit buddies to make sure you have it just right, are all critical steps in getting that authentic emotion in your story. :)

Annie Louden said...

Ooh, a list of tips. The 5th one has me dancing.

I think knowing thy characters is the keyest of keys (yeah, I said that). If you don't understand them, you certainly won't be able to accurately describe how they feel in certain situations.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Wow, I love how your broke this down into such a clear and concise list. I think you have perfectly captured the elusive subject of writing emotions!