Friday, August 13, 2010

Creating Emotion on the Page

When I first started submitting Sultana to critique groups, one of the biggest criticisms I had from my writing partners was that there wasn't enough emotion on the page. Everyone griped that my main characters were stiff and wooden because they didn't express much of what was going on inside of them, i.e., I was doing a poor job of expressing their feelings on the page. I must have fixed this problem of mine because as the story progressed to its bittersweet end, my critique partners became very admiring and told me how they cried while reading certain scenes, which was exactly what I was aiming for.

I think at the beginning of my writing, I shied away from having my characters express too much emotions because I worried they would be sentimental or clichéd, like the pounding heart full of fear and misty, watering eyes. Also, there was latent fear of delving deep into particular characters' feelings. Let's face it: emotions are often messy and scary. Have you ever seen someone completely blow their top over something that made them angry or just curl up in a ball over a painful loss? I have and it's not a pretty sight. Yet, these events are scenes that many of us can relate to and the job of a good writer is to convey all that emotional drama on the page.

The best learning experience, however, is the writer's own. This week, I lost a dear uncle after his long battle with leukemia. He was crazy; he was funny, always guaranteed to make you laugh, even when you didn't want to smile. I was blessed with the chance to see him, and despite his obvious pain, got a smile and laugh from him before the end. In the aftermath, as I sat with my aunt and her family, I think we all realized the gaping hole my uncle’s absence would leave in our lives, one that was once filled with laughter. Last night, I tuned into all my feelings to write a scene of my WIP, Rule of Love, where one of my main characters receives news of the death of her close friend. Halfway through it, I was bawling, easing some of my own sadness. Even if this first draft never makes it to the final version, the experience was just what I needed to tap into the emotions I want to convey.


Michelle Gregory said...

i'm almost crying just thinking about it. sorry for your loss.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks, Michelle. I'm a firm believer that if you keep the good memories of the ones who are lost, they're never really gone. I like to think my uncle is still somewhere laughing, just like he did in life.

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