Character emotions are important. Anyone who writes characters who don’t at least show their emotions in their inner thoughts (deep POV) is not likely to engage their readers. Fortunately we have two major aids for this. Books like the wonderful Emotion Thesaurus… and our own reactions as we write!
This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post, in which we share our successes and failures as writers, our insecurities, in fact. Anyone can join in, just sign up at the IWSG Sign-up page, write a blog post on the first Wednesday of the month, and go back to that sign up page to link with everyone else–or a goodly sample. Our host is Alex J Cavanaugh, and cohosting this month are:
Diedre Knight, Tonya Drecker,Bish Denham, Olga Godim, and JQ Rose!
Discovering your character emotions
It’s all very well writing something that is going to move your character to strong emotions, like a husband leaving on a battleship to go to war, as I wrote in the flash fiction at the end of January. I know some people can write dispassionately, but I’m always fully engaged with my characters. Often my cue on what to write is to notice my own body language. So there I was, tearing up as I wrote, and decided, yes, she could be holding back (just as I was to type), but she could produce something like that snort I’d just made to control the snivelling.
I don’t remember this happening a lot earlier in my writing. Maybe age makes me tear up more. (It does, definitely. Virtually anything can start me off).
I remember being in floods of tears from a death scene in book 9 of the Princelings, but that was supposed to be the most tragic scene in the series. I only edited that chapter once, then relied on my beta readers to pick up anything I missed. It was impossible for me to read it without a complete box of tissues and an hour’s rest afterwards. The sexy scene in Curved Space to Corsair was an interesting experience, I wonder if that’s why some writers do more sexy scenes than others?
The interesting part of being in tune with your characters emotions struck me when I was writing Zanzibar’s Rings. Pete is wholly focussed on looking for a lost shuttle. He spends hours at a time, just searching. And I spent hours at a time writing. I would finish a line or paragraph, sit back and sigh. And give him the same. Beats in action, if you know what I mean. So every time you find someone doing a physical thing in a sedentary role in my books, it’s probably what I did at that moment in the writing!
What about you? Do you live life along with your characters? Do you share their physical responses?
If not, or their motivations are very different from yours, don’t forget to browse though the Emotion Thesaurus and other wonderful guides at WriterHelpingWriters.net – it’s an essential part of a writer’s toolkit!
Question of the Month
Have you ever read a line in novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy?
Have I ever??
It’s one of the reasons I like my Kindle (or kindle app on my iPad). I can highlight the parts that make me weep. Sometimes for sorrow, but mostly for joy.
At one time I had this linked to my Goodreads page so you could see all my highlights. Like this one you may have read…
Chantelle’s berry colored micro-mini skirt clung to the curve of her bottom like a barnacle to a boat hull..Fractions of Existence, J Lenni Dorner
Biddi’s hen called attention to herself by leaping up and clucking a chicken-shout to the morning. Having announced the entrance of an egg with such triumphal fanfare, she lost her own interest and pecked about the tree roots.The Fall of Onagros , Marian Allen
I’ve gone into all of them and had a few more chuckles. Well, a few more are worth reading… especially descriptions of Norfolk.
What about you? Any good quotes to share? Do you add your emotions into your books as you write?
15 thoughts on “Character emotions – or yours? #IWSG”
Hi Jemima. Thank you for the reference to the Emotion Thesaurus. I don’t think I would be able to write dispassionately, specially a deep pov makes me dive in completely.
I can’t say that I experience exactly what my characters are experiencing, but I get totally immersed in their story and the writing when everything is working right in my writing.
You really put yourself in your writing.
I killed a main character off once and it was rough.
Wow, Alex. I could not do that. I do get attached :).
I do tend to feel it when my characters are experiencing strong emotions. What I need to do is follow your excellent advice and pay more attention to what I’m feeling and how it manifests itself!
I found this most interesting Jemima, I like to think my characters have feelings this has made me question this 💜
Like you, I always experience my characters’ emotions. I cry, I laugh, I gesture wildly. Just yesterday, I was so expansive in place of my character, I started waving my arms, like I chopped something, and hit my hand on a chair. With all my strength behind the blow. I got a big bruise out of it. It hurt for several hours and is still sensitive. And all because my character needed to hit her enemy with a bat.
I love that. Hope your hand is okay now!
My copy of the Emotions Thesaurus has seen better days thanks to all the use, but it often is only a lead into more ideas and thought. Happy writing!
It is, isn’t it. Inspirational!
I feel a lot of what my characters are feeling, but I wouldn’t say I feel all of it. After all, some of them are acting counter to how I would.
Yes, I agree. It’s hard to write a psychopath with empathy for the character, but I think beats in the action can reflect your own ‘coming up for air’!
My emotions last week – in no-tech isolation ? No phone, no internet,.for a week ? How did everybody live then, often alone with their own thoughts and emotions, and little chance of communicating with any other person. ?
At last, on Friday afternoon, success, Not Man Friday, but a team of communications workers reconnected our house with the world – possibly with slightly better understanding of the world in which so many fictional characters lived.
Never explain, never apologise – but last week, 7 days alone, without internet or phone,* at the head of a lonely valley could have triggered an emotional crisis.
No way of sharing that . No tears. , and I began to think about life before instant communication, their delayed response, to almost all news, family, local, global. No means of communicating sent all my experiences and thoughts back to the 19th C. Solution – I did have electricity, and read 19th C novels.- more like a 19th C reader.
* Waiting for the fixers, known as Open Reach.
Yes, it’s a huge shock when you are offline unexpectedly. All the ‘normal’ things that are now impossible. It really brings home why the girls in e.g. Pride & Prejudice went so crazy at the arrival of new people in the area. Your world is only what is in walking distance.
Glad you’re back online now.