Friday, March 13, 2009

Emotions in Fiction

Are you a fiction writer? Are you sometimes stumped as to how to make your writing sparkle? We oftentimes fall into patterns of overused description of characters' feelings.

Suppose your character is angry. What descriptors spring to mind when you think of anger? Jot them down. Did you think of a raised voice? Clenched fists? Accurate, yet these emotional descriptions are used too often and can be the sign of an amateur. Let's take a look at the following:

Jane clenched her fists when she spotted Claire coming toward her. Quiet descended on the cafeteria when Jane yelled, "What do you think you're doing in here?"

Then, let's add a little more to the scene.

Claire sauntered into the cafeteria flanked by her cronies. Jane's heart beat faster and she swallowed hard. Her hands curled into tight fists. This time she wouldn't let them put her down. This was her school, not Claire's. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at the interloper. Her voice was rough when she snarled, "What do you think you're doing in here?"

While the first scene lets the reader know Jane is angry at Claire, the second gives the reader more information and allows the reader to be part of the scene. This is what you, the writer, must do. Put yourself in Jane's situation. Imagine how you would feel. What is your heart doing? How do your hands feel? Are they sweaty, clammy or curling into fists.

If you use your own emotional memories, you can write about almost any character. If you're writing about something which you yourself haven't experienced, a death or a burglary for example, talk to someone who has. It's your job as a writer to give your readers more than just the facts. Give them the information they need to believe in your characters and in your story.

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