This post is the second installment in a two part series regarding the role of emotions in writing. The first post explored the different emotions our readers are experiencing (or that we want them to experience) when they read our work.
In this post I will open up a discussion about considering emotion when developing characters in our stories.
But before I delve into today’s topic, I’d like to quickly recall how contemplating different human emotions before you start writing can help you get in touch with your ideas and make connections therein.
With busy lives and technology constantly separating us from genuine connections – both with others and ourselves – it can often be a struggle for us to even list off different emotions. I recommend Googling “list of emotions” or “list of feelings” and reading through the results.
Exploring different emotions is crucial to the writing process because it’s not necessarily what happens in a story that hooks us, but the cognitive response that the characters experience and our ability to relate to those responses.
Start With a Feeling
Do you have writer’s block? Are you struggling to think of a great storyline, but can’t seem to scare one up? The best advice I can give you is to start with a feeling.
Check out that list of emotions you Googled. Go through each of the words listed – Doomed, Appalled, Blissful, Prideful, Disappointed – imagine someone who might be feeling these things. What would lead them to feel this way? How long have they felt this way? How does this feeling make them act toward others, themselves?
Now we are getting somewhere!
Perhaps after reading that list you now have a character who is feeling prideful about a new dress she just bought in order to impress a socialite she hopes to befriend. While she’s out wearing the dress, she feels “above” all the “peasants” wearing non-designer attire, but when she’s alone, she cries herself to sleep.
Now I’m just playing and spitballing of course, but do you see how we already have a character slightly developed and even a bit of a story falling into place? All from picking one emotion: pride!
Come Back to The Feeling
As your story develops, don’t forget to come back to that emotion. In fact, you might consider giving the character a certain quirk that accompanies the emotion – something like twirling her hair when nervous or sticking her nose up when feeling prideful. Attaching a mannerism to a feeling can really humanize your character.
Events + Feelings = Whole Story
Think of your story as a scale – one side is Events, the other side is Feelings.
You want your scale to be equal, so if you put weight into the events, be sure to try and balance it out with feelings; the two complement each other.
As certain events unfold throughout your story, your characters react and develop. These reactions spur more events, which produce more feelings. It’s a beautiful thing.
What other elements do you consider when developing emotions for a character? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Image Credit: Ultimate Reviews