Monday, November 7, 2011

Writing in 140: Writers Feel

It’s pretty impossible to be an effective creative writer if you don’t feel. Our ability to emote, to go from joy to despair, to have experienced first-hand situations that move us across the spectrum of emotions, or to have experienced those emotions via second-hand situations through loved ones and those we just meet as we pass by through life enables us to explore those feelings and emotions in our writing. Readers often come to our stories in the hopes of connecting with the stories—seeing themselves in the characters we develop, seeing their current situation played out in our words. If our readers laugh and cry, experience joy and pain, shouldn’t our characters? And for our characters to realistically convey those emotions to the reader, shouldn’t we as writers be just as in tune with our emotions and feelings?

Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotion, created in 1980

List of Emotions – via Wikipedia [LINK]
Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.
Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, writing, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. This is so true, Shon. I often think an author's willingness to flay themselves open and be truly vulnerable while writing can indicate the potential success of the book. it sounds messy--like blood flying all over the place--but it doesn't have to be. It just needs to feel "true."

    But writers, take note: the most obvious emotion may not be the most interesting. Dig a little deeper and you might find something else going on.

  2. The Wikipedia page has some other interesting charts that would make fantastic writing prompts!

  3. Very true about writers. If you're writing a book and you don't feel what your characters feel, then you're not deep enough into the character, and the readers can tell.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Isn't it interesting that our ability to convey our emotions through our characters often creates an "unseverable" umbilical cord? When we finally give birth to the full-term story, we want to protect every word with our mother (or father) love and prevent anyone else from nurturing or shaping it, lest it lose our "voice" or our "style."

    Some years ago, I attended a writing seminar where the keynote speaker told us quite frankly that our words were not our babies. Oh, yeah?

    Excellent post, Shon! Great food for thought.

  5. Kathryn, you are so right about digging deeper. As in real life, what you see might not be what you're really getting. And the root of what you're getting might be a lot more gripping than what's on the surface.

  6. I write intellectually layered thrillers, but also definitely go for feelings. My copy editor for the forthcoming Lior Samson novel, The Rosen Singularity, told me she cried at one particular scene. That sent me into the stratosphere.

    Another way of highlighting emotions is through their absence, as with one character of mine who was so cerebral and unemotional that he contrasted with the feeling people around him.

    --Larry Constantine
    (Lior Samson, novelist)

  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone! You know, there is always a caveat to some of these posts I make, like this one right here. A new writer might take it and throw emotions all over a story thinking that is what's needed. But it is all about balance. What is the story you are trying to tell and what components (and measurements of those components) will make for the most effective read...that's always important to remember...especially when thinking about emotions because we're not necessarily saying go for the REALITY TV DRAMA EMOTION, lol Sometimes, as others have said, the absence of emotion is just as strong of an indicator of a character's emotions as having a plethora of emotion on the page.

  8. Wow, Larry, that's an awesome response from your editor!

    I like what Morgan said about readers being able to tell if you're not feeling your characters' emotions; I think that's definitely true, even if readers just feel something's "off" and can't pin-point what it is.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  9. So true about bing able to convey the feelings so the reader can make that emotional connection. A writing instructor once challenged us to never write that a character felt sad, or happy, or anything else, but describe that feeling in such a way that the reader can feel it. For example, instead of writing, Sarah felt embarrassed, we would write,embarrassment made Sarah's cheeks burn. It takes work to convey the feelings that way, but that is why writing is not easy.

  10. I cry a lot when I read the responses to my query letters.

  11. Wonderful! Showing emotion through your characters may be one of the hardest things for writers to master, but essential.


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