Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3 More Ways To Put Emotion on the Page

Yep, I'm brazenly camping onto Jeffe's Sunday How To post with three more tips to infuse emotion into your story.   

1. Dedicate One Revision to Emotion and Just Emotion
I'm the sort of writer who writes in layers, kind of like a painter building up the canvas. The first draft is a series of connected actions. The second draft is dedicated solely to crawling inside the characters' heads for every action, conflict, and discovery to answer:
  • How does X feel right now?
  • Why does X feel this right now?
  • Do X's actions accurately reflect X's emotions?
  • How does this feeling change by the end of the sequence/scene?
  • How do X's new feelings change X's goals, motivations, and/or conflicts?

2. Good Action Scenes Demonstrate Emotional Causes and Effects
Every good action scene--from blood-baths to bouncing bed-springs--begins with and is driven by emotion. The action ends with a confirmation of perspective or a change in outlook.
  • Who is the instigator? 
  • Why is s/he instigating?
  • What does he/she hope to achieve?
  • Who is the adversary? 
  • Does the adversary choose to engage? Why?
  • How is short-term success achieved? For whom? Why/Why not?
  • Is long-term success achieved? For whom? How? 
  • What are the consequences of failure?
  • What are the consequences of success?
  • How are the instigator and the adversary different from when the engagement started?
  • What will they do differently in the future? Why?

3. There Must Be Change

We're all told that a protagonist who doesn't grow over the course of the story is a boring protagonist. Emotional evolution has to happen, both the better and the worse. A character who becomes a "better man" with a "darker soul" is an interesting character, a character who offers reader-retention because s/he is unpredictable. Right? Right. So how do we make that happen?

With every action scene, with every conflict, and with every discovery.
With every notable experience.

Experiences are tethered to our memories by emotions. How we react at the onset of a stimulus is determined by the emotion provoked. How we assimilate the whole experience once it is over is determined by the series of emotions that came into play. Our brains unconsciously log the tumult of feelings throughout the engagement. There are those of us hardwired review/replay ad nauseam every experience that provoked an intense emotion. The extreme analysis of the minutia (which may prevent us from falling asleep at night) is our way of retraining our brains to react to future stimuli in the way we wish we had reacted.

The great thing about being an author is we can use that conflict analysis on our characters to align "did" with "ought to have" in revisions. Hence, the reason to dedicate at least one revision to infusing emotions into your characters--and through your characters--into your story.

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