Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Art of Feeling: The Role of Emotions in Scenes

Emotions in scenes reveal character
Why show emotions in scenes instead of telling how characters feel? Because readers like discovery it respects their dignity and intellect. But how do emotions function, what should they reveal, and how can writers deal with their own discoveries?

The best approach to writing an emotional scene is to reveal character and advance plot, preferably both at once.

Here's an example:

Bill slammed the garage door. "I told you I didn't want you coming home until you found work."
"But, Dad." Dave slouched against the car. "I'm not cut out for anything."

In two lines, the characters show who they are, how they relate to each other and several major problems.

Caveat: Writers sometimes include information that's new to them, but shouldn't be. Describing Dave as tall in this scene wouldn't add anything, but saying he slouched hints at the same and reveals his mood, if not his personality.

Tip: Writers often make their own discoveries while writing scenes, and wonder whether what they've found is a legitimate character trait, or an anomaly. When you discover something new about a character, rather than stop the scene to ponder it, complete the scene to see how it plays out. Then give yourself time away before rereading the scene and considering how the discovery affects other characters and the plot. If you keep the scene, revise it for as many main characters as are in it. Consider setting a character.

What difficult scene are you working on?

Happy writing!

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