Emotions in Motion

You know, I’m a pretty emotional person. I cried last night when the Spurs won, especially when David Robinson, now retired, came down to hug Tim Duncan. I choked up during The Perfect Man. People tend not to tell me things because they’re afraid I’ll overreact.

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So why can’t I translate this power into my stories? This is not the first R that I’ve gotten that cites emotional depth as my weakness. When Shannon Godwin called me, she said, “So this is the romance story without the romance?” Trish J will tell you that she writes the word, “Emotion!” or “Feelings!” on each page of my ms. It’s just not something I delve into on the page. Even when I’m reading, I tend to skim over the internal monologues. (I know, shame on me! Shame!)

But it’s clear that if I want to break through, I’m going to have to address this. Only, here’s the thing. I don’t know how.

Earlier this week, Gina wrote:

I have lists of "emotion words" now, which helps me to focus on what I want to convey.

I've learned to believe that if I don't grind it in it isn't there. I've been much too subtle in the past.

I go back and read each section asking myself what the character is feeling and if it shows.

I pay close attention to Dwight Swain's motivation-reaction units...which is one (and a very good) technique.

I used to want to be subtle out of respect to the reader, but I'm coming to understand that people read romance for the emotion, so being subtle misses the mark. The more I get that, the easier it is.

These are great suggestions, and I’m definitely going to put them into practice.

Does anyone else have a way? And do you tend to put the emotion in on the rough draft, or do you layer it in later?

Oh, and check out Larissa's blog today. It's hilarious. The link is in my sidebar.


Anonymous said...

Mar, this is a hard one to comment on...I know I am not anywhere near as skilled as you are, so who am I to say. But I will give it a shot, because I love you dearly.

You are a deeply emotional person...but you have also endured a great deal. In some ways you remind me of my husband, who is so like you in this respect. The only way he knew how to survive and thrive was to learn how to put a cover on those emotions, so no one could hurt him with them. Is that what you're doing in your work? Putting a cover on the character's emotions? It's a question you have to ask, to see if it's true or not. Are you scared to really let your characters let go, to hurt and love and hate and feel, full out, all the way, no matter what? I can still hear one of my earliest writing teachers telling me to be willing to be mean to my characters. Let them suffer, suffer, suffer, and show it all on the pages. I personally hate suffering. But I know without the suffering, I wouldn't be who I am today...suffering shapes us even more than joy, sometimes. See if you're protecting your characters, keeping them back, keeping them safe from what emotion does to us. If you are, then you have to let them go, and you have to let them hurt. It stinks. But it gives power to your people.


Trish Milburn said...

I think JoAnn is right about making the characters suffer. I've had this problem throughout my writing career as well, and I've bucked being mean to characters on more than one occasion. But like you said, Mary, it might just be what it takes to break through. Just remember that you CAN put your characters through hell because you KNOW it'll end up happy in the end. Another idea is to just work on one scene a day, no more. Take that scene and each time through, read for a certain thing, i.e. does the heroine show enough emotion in this scene, how can I make the emotions deeper, does the scene move the story forward toward the resolution of the story question, etc. Good luck. I know you can do it!

MJFredrick said...

Trish, I am planning to do the one scene a day deal when I start revisions on my vacation next week. I have trouble stopping my forward momentum at this point, and if I could only write one scene a day, I might explode. It would not be pretty.

JoAnn, I don't know if I'm putting a lid on my characters' feelings. I think maybe I write characters who tend to do that to themselves. Mostly I wonder if anyone wants to read all that ;)

Your first person idea sounds great, too!

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely one who layers. I get the basics of the dialogue and the scene, then I go back and decide what emotions need to be revealed. I always have to rein myself in to keep from giving away too much. If my stupid right brain got its way, they'd be in love on page 3.

Anonymous said...

Mar, you bet they want to read all that! When I read, I want to lose myself in the characters...I want to feel what they feel, see what they see, experience what they are experiencing. I wanna BE there. Right now I am doing my yearly re-reading of the Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora. I'd like to live in Mia's house on the cliffs. I'd like to have all her shoes. I'd like to be as confident as she is, as connected. I get to feel that for a little while, when I read.


Trish Milburn said...

JoAnn, I love the Three Sisters Island trilogy. My sister and I want to live there and run the bookshop and cafe. Well, she would run the cafe. She got all the Betty Crocker genes in the family. :)

MJFredrick said...

Okay, layering I think I can do. Will definitely work on this next week.

Amie Stuart said...

>>Even when I’m reading, I tend to skim over the internal monologues

LOL mary I do the same thing!!!! And I tend to skip the emotion too--Get busted for it regulary from my CP's. all that wallowing LOL but if I let it all out I tend to overboard.

I'm looking at an old blaze I wrote almost 2 years ago--talk about angst! ACK! LOL

MJFredrick said...

I met with these other writers today and we were talking about my hero in my WIP, a Special Forces kind of guy. Do you think he's going to be having a lot of emotions? No, I don't think so. Heck, the computer nerd I'm married to doesn't. I can't see a Special Forces guy moping, ya know?

Anonymous said...

Mary, sending you good vibes with that :)

MJFredrick said...

Thanks for the vibes, Bonnie! Can you believe - I made scene cards today?? For my WIP??? I'm so proud of me!


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