Sunday, January 19, 2020

Emotion and Writing

I’m not here to talk about mood or how to set the tone for a story, both of which are important aspects but not what I’m going to focus on today. Rather, I want to talk about emotion and how it influences writing and vice versa. Often times, we as readers talk a lot about how a book affected us on an emotional level, but I haven’t seen much of that for the writer’s side. It could be an interesting psychological study. Of course, there are so many aspects, but I’m just going to focus on three main points that I have found in my writing.

Releasing Emotion

Of all the emotions that go into writing, whether it’s humor and whimsy or heartache and frustration, this is probably the most fun. (If fun is the right word? Is putting sorrow or pain into writing fun?) Most meaningful. Yeah, let’s go with that.

When I’m releasing my emotions and weaving them into my words it’s typically during the first draft. I may use this technique during subsequent drafts as well, particularly when it comes to rewriting, but for the most part, it occurs during the first. I focus on a particular mood I want the scene to convey, I pick a song that goes along with that mood, and then I get down to writing.

It’s very therapeutic actually. I often feel better once I’m done.

Evoking Emotion

On the flip side, emotions don’t always come from me and flow into my story. Sometimes, they come from my story and affect me, and not usually in a good way. This usually occurs when I’m working on the first or second drafts, and it usually hits near the turning point or the climax when things are really starting to get dark. It happens when my characters are abused or killed off.

Which is part of the reason I’m writing this blog post instead of working on my novel. I reached the turning point in my novel and found myself depressed for most of the day. I didn’t want to do anything. So my sister dragged me off to volunteer at the animal shelter just like I did with her the previous day, and I had some doggo therapy. All the kisses! And a fluffy somebody chewed on my arm.

Sure, there are other factors that go into depression, but when my writing happens to be one of them, I have to take a step back.

Adding Emotion

This part usually comes in the second draft and onward. You know the part where the critique partner looks at the story and says, “I just don’t see any emotion here.” That’s when I have to take a step back and reevaluate my work. This usually goes a little something like this:

What do you mean there’s no emotion?

I poured my heart into this!

ARGH! *claws eyes out but not really*

Then, after sufficiently complaining, I do a little research, brushing up on blog posts or pursuing some writing books. Then I get to rewriting. I often try to focus more on showing versus telling emotions, so they require me to dig a little deeper into the story, but it’s always a worthwhile exercise.

Let’s chat! Fellow writers, what are some of the ways you put emotion into your writing? When does your story influence you the most? Readers, when you do get the most emotion from reading?


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