Character Transformation Through Emotion #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AmWriting

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Thank you Raimey!


When faced with a major turning point in your life, what did you do? How did you respond? How long did it take you to come to terms with this event?

I think we’re all afraid of failure at some level.

Our characters in our books are the same. They feel. They react. They make bad choices and are forced to face fear. Fear causes change. Fear makes our characters break and grow.

This break also draws the reader in, coaxing us to read on, gripping the pages with worry as we wonder whether our characters will be okay. We want to know how they will respond, and hopefully they will come out in the end on top.

Deep into my second draft of my working manuscript, I’m analyzing emotion in scenes. I’m trying to decide how my character feels at the beginning of the chapter. I’m tracking the shift in emotion when faced with shock of an event or discovery. I’m also using tips to determine if the emotion is changing as the plot thickens and if the character is in fact growing the way she should.

A great article in writer’s digest by author David Corbett on emotion verses feeling really made me think.

He said, “People don’t turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced—or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience. Our job is to create a series of effects to facilitate and enhance that experience.”

So how do we do this?

I recently purchased two books on writing for emotion by K. M. Weiland. I’ll let you know next month what I learn.

In the meantime, I’ll share some tips from two online resources. One by author David Corbett, a guest writer for Writer’s Digest, and the second article comes from author Hannah Heath.

The Anchor Technique

As you write an emotional scene, have some writing prompt for the emotion important to your character. Maybe a picture that elicits a certain feeling in you as you think about the issue or action this character is about to face or is facing as you write. I love this suggestion! Thank you author Hannah Heath. Songs work too.

Dialogue Mirrors Emotion

In the heart of great emotional conflict, dialogue doesn’t have to make sense. Distress, worry, or grief doesn’t tend to be logical. Dialogue probably won’t by long and verbose or perfect either.

Character Emotion at the Beginning, Middle and End

Where does your character stand as you start the scene? What happens as the event unfolds? Analyze the intensity. Measure it against earlier reactions. Is it stronger depending on length of the journey? Is it worse? Better? How or Why?

Corbett states: “Evaluate the feeling. Is it right or wrong to feel this way? Proper or shameful? What would a more refined, stronger, wiser person feel?”

Lastly, Emotional Impact on Identity

Corbett states, “What does this feeling say about the character or the state of her life? Has she grown or regressed? Does she recognize the feeling as universal, or does it render her painfully alone?”

Brilliant thoughts? I thought so. To visit more of his tips, visit the link to Writer’s Digest.

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on March 19, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Excellent points. I think sometimes, as the writer, I know how the story will end. By knowing the end, especially if things will work out positively, it pulls some of the emotion away from the scenes. I have to pause sometimes and put some blinders on to get the proper amount of emotion.

  2. Great post Erika – K. M. Weiland has some useful tips based on her own experience

  3. LOL – those thing are never logical and the person caught in the throes does not make sense.

  4. I like to use songs. I can’t write with music on but I like to listen to songs that put me in the mood my character will be in before I start. Great post!

  5. Wonderful post. Have you read that book I told you about? I adore how she does emotion. It’s the one called The Trouble with Goats and Sheep.

  6. I think we just featured one of Corbett’s podcasts at the IWSG. He has some sound advice,

  7. Louise Brady, Author

    Great tips, my favourite is to remember people feel and react. I think I need to use some of my life experiences to bring my stories to life. Bookmarking for when I do some writing later 🙂

  8. Love that quote on the reader wanting to experience the emotion the character and they have felt. Identify with it. I’m editing for emotion and reaction in my memoir. I really think readers are looking to feel the emotion in their heart or gut. Thanks for the article suggestions.
    JQ Rose

  9. Great tips! I’ll be able to use these with the novel I’m revising for Camp Nano. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  10. Great post Erica! Inauthentic emotional reactions can stop a story dead. Nothing is worse than having a reader think, “s/he would never react that way.” I’m pushing to the end of a first draft, and this will definitely be a focus of my revision. Thanks.

  11. This was deep–almost overwhelming. Great post!

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  12. good tips for someone who aspires to be logical in all situations! Made me giggle that sometimes my characters are a bit overly logical, too. Good reset.

  13. As a reader, I need to feel that the emotions a characters is experiencing and expressing seem realistic. And that is my goal as a writer. Thanks for these useful tips.

  14. Good post. I like the idea of editing my manuscript with a focus on the emotional progression of the characters. I tend to underplay the reaction of my characters. In many cases, they should exhibit stronger feelings.

  15. Great tips – I’m one of those writers who has trouble getting the emotion in, and I have a couple of editing clients with the same issue.

  16. Dialogue is the easiest part of writing for me, but I know some writers struggle with it. Thanks for your tips for them.

  17. Victoria Marie Lees

    Erika, you have superb quotes and pictures on your blog. Lots of food for thought. I always learn something new here. All of these are great tips. I, also, enjoy writing dialogue, like Cheryl above. But as you say, dialogue is usually clipped and staccato at times of tension and stress in characters’ lives. Thanks for a great post. Enjoy your day!

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