View Full Version : strong emotion in writing
November 29th, 2001, 06:54 AM
I'm having trouble creating strong emotion in my writing. How do you do it? How do you know you've succeeded?
Hate is the easiest for me, but deep, gut wrenching sorrow is hard for me to put on paper.
How do I get a reader to cry without making him laugh in the process?
November 29th, 2001, 07:42 AM
Cry? I VERY rarily --if ever-- cry, when reading a story.
But: if you want to create a feeling of sudness, you must fist conect the X to the reader, then do something bad to the X. X can be a land, a character, a house (!), whatever.
E.g., a character we know and love for the past 200 pages, gets blind. Or the village we come to like, gets burned. It's possible we gonna feel sorry for them.
Laught? Well, it's all about sense of humor. I don't think there is even the shade of a formula here. If others like your sense of humor, then ther're going to laugh...
First and foremost is to try to imagine how your character(s) would feel in each case, then try to put it on paper (or screen).
November 29th, 2001, 07:54 AM
The tricky thing about emotion, is if you try to force it on the reader, it probably won't work. It needs to be done subtly. I think it works best if you leave all the feelings that you'd want someone to have implied, but let the reader go ahead and feel how they want to. In other words, write the event, and if it's sad, you might want to add to the feeling using the narrative, but if you ever start to beat it in, or try and "make" the reader feel a certain way, it'll just come off as contrived. Then again, this is only my view on it.
November 29th, 2001, 12:09 PM
It's been as much as said above but with any emotion you want your readers to feel through your characters, you first have to make the reader care about the character, or at least be able to empathise with the situation the character is in, so they can subsitute how they would feel themselves.
To get across a certain strong emotion, I'll try and put myself in the position before I write, consider how I something like anger affects you physically an mentally, then write it all down. The job after that is not to over-do it. It's your judgement when a reader will have 'got the picture'.
Does that make sense? Hope so. It's midnight in the UK and I've been writing all night.
November 29th, 2001, 03:30 PM
One way to get to the readerís emotions has been said above, get the reader to relate to the character. If the reader connects with the character then everything that happens to the character is happening to the reader. Any negative or positive situations will then (ideally) evoke sympathy or elation in the reader.
To do this, I try to become the character, as if I was an actress portraying a scene. Although the scene is played in my mind, I feel the emotions intensely. All this time Iím writing everything down. This can be very emotionally draining for me and I admit that most people donít understand how I can get so tired from sitting at a computer writing.
When Iím writing an emotional scene, I donít worry about being over the top. I tone it down later. After a week or so I can read it as a reader would. I try to be objective and remove anything that doesnít need to be in those scenes.
Some things are universally emotional, for instance a young child tragically orphaned. You donít have to connect the reader to the child to trigger that sympathy. Many people will pity the child if you simply show the childís pain.
Remember though that you never want to add tear jerker scenes just for the sake of it. If the scene does not add to the story, then it does NOT belong in the story.
December 1st, 2001, 05:20 AM
Actually, its a tad more deceptive than people like NOM and KATS would have you believe. To transmit emotions really well you must craft a character in such a way that the reader does more than simply identify with but truly want to be. Haven't you visualized yourself as another author's depiction and didn't it hurt more when it became personal for you? That's the real trick, describing someone so vividly that a reader feels he/she could simply jump out of their skin and into the scene. This goes beyond mere identification and it is a writing talent that is not attained by everyone. Rather than me suggesting who to read, go back and look at those authors who inspired you to want to write. Look again how they turned you on and why it worked. That's all the higher education you really need to get started on the right track. Good luck.
December 1st, 2001, 11:58 AM
I agree with Penumbra, it is hard to write and communicate feeling. Sometimes I want people to cry: and I feel good when they do (sadist that I am). Partly it's about the character - it's very important, as a couple of people have said, that the character matters to the reader. I think one way in is to pay attention to the sensual reality of the character - what they smell, touch, see. I've been fascinated, in the novel I've just written, how visual it is (my other writing is visual, but not nearly so visual as this one). I even found myself thinking in film terms. But I also found, especially in rewriting, that the unsatisfactory scenes required me to totally imagine them. It's quite exhausting! Where was that person sitting, standing in relation to others, what did they think, what did they feel, what was the wind like, what colour were the walls, what could they smell, how frightened were they, how sad, how happy - whatever. And if the physical reality is complete to the reader, then there's more chance that they'll be able to relate to the character's situation, and if necessary be moved by it. In theory, anyway. I have to say that in some scenes I had to get up and get a coffee because I found I was crying myself, which felt a bit silly... the danger is of course that it's all emotional and doesn't communicate, an easy mistake to make. It's a bit of a knife edge. Because you have to put yourself into all your writing, without losing all the discipline of writing.
December 4th, 2001, 12:32 PM
It's a good shout, Penumbra but I don't think it's the whole answer either. In fact I think we're all coming up with fragments of the whole.
I'm personally inspired by writers whose characters I care about but that doesn't mean I want to be them.
In my own writing I want people to identify with my characters, empathise and be bothered about what happens to them as if they were friends (or dislike them as if they were enemies). But I don't necessarily want them jumping into their skins, so to speak.
Depends what you want from your writing and your readers I suppose..
December 4th, 2001, 03:54 PM
I'd say to look at movies and see how they illustrate sadness and other emotions. That will give you some of different writer's take on what actually happens in a sequence to illustrate emotion. Of course you'd have to take it away from the movie stylisms... and beause of this you might find it's sort of...codified...in movies. But it's always interesting to look at another genre of art that's similar to writing in that it tells a story. But bear in mind that screenwriting is different that writing words.
So, a alison suggested, comparing how film illustrates emotion, you would put all the other senses back in with your own writing later.
December 23rd, 2001, 09:20 AM
I recall once when I was writing a post for a rpg and really felt for my character - that is the only time I can remember right now when I cried while I was writing becasue I so vividly could live myself into what my character was feeling.
(If thats what you do all the time KATS, I can understand if you get tiered, but your writing must be amazingly good)
Needless to say, that was (imo http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif a great post, and when I want to write strong emotions I first try to think about how I would have felt, how I would describe it if it had been me. I think that when you can imagine it yourself it is much easier to imagine it for your readers. Also, number two, is to avoid clichees.... (At lest unvoulontary clichees)
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