Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writing Emotion

I have quite a few scenes in my book that are very emotional, but I feel that they aren’t really coming across to the reader that way. I want the reader to feel every emotion. What is the best, most effective way to write intensely emotional scenes? Examples, tricks of the trade, advice anyone?

20 comments:

Cindy said...

I struggle with this as well. There is one scene in particular in one of my WIP's that is very, very intense. It is also the turning point of the book and the mark of major growth in my MC. I had to work hard to get into her mindset and grasp how life changing this moment was for her. Then I worked both with using raw and intense adjectives and verbs and trading off to points of very flowy and (hopefully) beautiful prose coupled with appropriate weeping, sitting on the floor, doubled over with emotion kinds of adjectives. Still don't know if it comes across the right way, but I know trying to expand on the scene and write it in more than one way helped.

scott g.f. bailey said...

The thing to remember is that the emotions actually take place in the reader, not on the page. So you have to first get the reader to care about the characters and be emotionally invested in what happens to them. Once that's done, I think you can be pretty subtle in the actual "emotional" scenes. All the prose on earth won't do it if the reader isn't already there with the character, having their own emotional response to your story. So the trick, if any, is setting up the scene; it's all done in advance. Sorry to be so vague. It's not on purpose.

Lady Glamis said...

You may want to submit this question to The Literary Lab. ;)

I'm sure we can answer it there. Probably on Thursday (my day, hehe). Just click on the "Just Ask!" icon on the blog.

:D

Wendy said...

I think Scott nailed it with getting readers into the character first. I find my most powerful scenes filled w/ emotion have fewer words. They are raw and sans all the unneeded description. Somehow that seems to have more impact...or so I'm told by my cold readers.
~ Wendy

Danyelle said...

I agree with Scott. If I (as a reader) can't connect with the characters, I'm not going to feel anything for them when things start happening.

Scott said...

Ditto with what the 'other' Scott said! : )

I truly don't think you can 'force' the emotional scenes. They just sort of happen. I'm always surprised on a read through of my writing when a scene strikes me as emotional. I truly, like Scott before me, think that if the reader cares about the character, than the emotions will follow.

Lastly . . . stop trying so hard. Forget about what you 'want' the scene to be, and just write the scene and then, hardest of all, move on to the next scene. Do not, whatever you do, keep reading the scene over and over trying to find the emotion. Move on, and then, in two days, maybe a week or two, do a complete read through of your work leading up to the scene and see if that hidden emotion you've been seeking isn't already there.

Oh, and I agree with Lady Glamis as well . . . basically because I want to see her in-depth response. : )

S

Litgirl01 said...

Cindy - Getting into the mindset...definitely good! I usually cry when I write them! :-) So, they are emotional to me! he he

Scott B - Very true, and this is something that I am going to work on! :-)

Glam - I posted the question! Thanks! Oh, and I posted another question too! That should keep you busy...as if you aren't already. lol

Wendy - I agree to. Hopefully I can accomplish that.

Danyelle - I feel the same!

Scott - She's good at that! Eh? ;-)

Davin Malasarn said...

Sincerity is the key for me. You have to be willing to open yourself up to embarrassment and vulnerability in order to get true feelings across. Sincerity, in combination with setting up the scene will work nicely, I think.

Litgirl01 said...

Davin - I am more challenged to keep my emotions in check! LOL I agree, sincerity is very important.

PJ Hoover said...

I think it takes a lot of practice and a lot of reading other books in your genre. Taking note of which books affect you and trying to break down why is what has helped me the most.

T. Anne said...

To convey a roller coaster of emotions in a novel takes skillful planning right from the start. Have you read Putting the Fire in Fiction by donald Mass? He gives examples of just that. (lots of them)

Litgirl01 said...

PJ - Very true....I have been reading and underlining like mad woman! LOL

T. Anne - I haven't read that one, but I think I will. Thanks!! :-)

Martin Willoughby said...

How? Take a tip from the actors...BECOME the character for a while, see through their eyes and write what you see.

Marybeth said...

I found that if I was starting to get emotional as the words were spilling out of me, it was likely the reader would do the same. At least that's what I hope!

Great Question!

Carrie Harris said...

I hope this doesn't come off as the hugest cliche, but for me, it's pretty simple. I recently critted a scene from a very skilled writer who didn't trust her talent. Why do I say this? Because she wrote great scenes with stirring dialogue and actions that showed me how the characters felt and let me experience it with them. Unfortunately, she started those scenes with comments like: "It was really sad."

It all goes back to the whole show versus tell thing for me, which everyone always says, but I don't think it makes it any less true. :)

Robyn said...

That's a toughy. I started my current WIP, in an very emotional scene and was told by an editor that the reader needed to know my character, so they would care when the emotional scene came up. I wrote a new chapter one and it works better. I think Scott gave you some very good advice. :)

Litgirl01 said...

Martin...I am now becoming Kate. Gosh she's bitter! Oh, I was her all the while! ;-)

Marybeth...I approached it the same way. :-)

Carie - Great advice!!! Thanks!! :-)

Robyn - I agree! ;-)

Charlie said...

Scott hit the nail on the head. (again)
If I don't care about a character, I won't feel her stress of a job interview, her rage after her child gets kidnapped, or her glee after a successful date.

An honest emotion rings true. You have to put yourself out there, fully exposed.

lotusgirl said...

I agree with Scott GFB. So much of what works in an emotional scene is done before as we get to know the characters and care about them. Then if something bad happens to them we become emotional as readers.

Litgirl01 said...

Thanks Charlie and Lois...something just clicked when I read your post. YES...a realization. I know what to do!!!!!

Thanks all!!!! xxx