Emotions are hard enough to deal with. Now try writing about them. Many people feel they’re running straight into a wall when they have to tackle their character’s emotions.
Get out your tissues. Clench your fists. Engage in a passionate kiss. All this month, we’re exploring your character’s emotions and how you can put those feelings in writing.
It’s time to toy with your character’s emotions. Ready to get them riled? Our emotional journey begins with Anger.
But just like you, our characters feel various degrees of anger. Your dog’s been sifting through the garbage and now last week’s leftovers are all over the kitchen floor.
Okay, you’re peeved. You roll your eyes, scold the dog and call the kids in from the other room to clean up the mess their dog that you’ve been taking care of made.
But say you walk in on your spouse and he/she has a new friend. You’re enraged. Your face feels hot. That’s when you start to throw things, yell obscenities and land a few punches on the spouse in question.
So just how do you capture those moments and put them into words? Let’s take a look at how not to do it:
Elaine was mad as hell. She punched Tony in the stomach.
“I hate you,” she yelled.
“You’re so stupid,” Tony gasped for breath.
Elaine kicked him in the shin as she screamed, “Go to hell.”
Another bad example:
Carrie felt her blood boil. Her fingers tightened into a fist.
She threw a punch at Andrea. And then another.
Andrea punched back as she fell backwards.
Then Carrie grabbed a chair and crashed it over Andrea’s head.
Yikes! A female Arnold Schwarzenegger. But where’s the emotion? Did you feel the punches Carrie landed? Did you feel the chair crashing over Andrea’s head?
The scene merely described the action. There wasn’t any emotion attached to the characters.
Another common mistake found in emotional writing is using clichés. For instance, in the first example above, Elaine was “mad as hell.”
Sure, people say they’re mad as hell but what does it mean really? How mad is hell?