Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Writing with Deep Emotion: Third Mistake, Isolated Emotion

This week we've been discussing how to write with deep emotion. The first two were Setting up the Emotional Punch and Why Purple Prose Won't Work. Today we're going to take a look at Isolated Emotion.

Third Mistake–Isolated Emotion

Another difficulty with writing emotion comes from the internal desire of the author to detail the depth of emotion they themselves feel when crafting a high stakes scene. Many first drafts of those first novels are littered with emotional moments that seem not to have any real rhyme or reason. This is created by a lack of information, or wrong information, earlier in the story which leaves the reader feeling as if they’re missing something essential in order to empathize.

An example of isolated emotion might be a heroine who suddenly bursts into tears when the hero brings her a bouquet of beautiful white orchids. Through the rest of the scene the heroine explains white orchids were her mother’s favorite and since the funeral two years ago, she simply can’t look at the flower without becoming unglued. This is isolated emotion.

There are two ways to avoid isolated emotion–curb the reaction, keep it subdued, showing the reason through internal thoughts, or secondly, set up the reaction in an earlier scene.

Imagine the above scenario where the heroine smiles, accepts the flowers with a soft utterance of gratitude, but between the dialogue, her thoughts return to the day she buried her mother. She then becomes a heroic character, holding back her own pain in order to protect the hero from embarrassment over his inadvertent misstep.

I believe setting up the emotions has the most impact. We touched on this a bit earlier, but in the scenario above, it’s obvious the mother’s passing is something that deeply affects this character. Therefore, it would behoove the author to use this during the preceding pages as a means to showcase the vulnerability of this particular heroine.

Perhaps she wishes she could ask her mother for advice, or she remembers the funeral as she thinks of the last time she saw an estranged family member. However the memory is conveyed, sharing how she can’t see or smell orchids without thinking of that tragedy in her life should be layered in throughout.

So when the hero comes, obviously trying to get into her good graces or offer comfort—either because he owes her an apology or he feels badly for her and wants to cheer her up—and offers her the orchids, her bursting into tears has real and immediate value and impact. The reader supplies the impact without the writer having to divulge the obvious, making this an interactive read with an emotionally invested audience.

Be aware of the goal for the emotion. If there is no goal, then perhaps the emotion is not necessary. If the goal is to create an emotional aura where other things may happen–such as using the flower scenario to make the heroine more accepting of whatever the hero has come to say–be sure you choose the correct method to accurately reach the goal with the most impact.

Don’t throw in emotion for emotion’s sake. Give it real meaning.

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer in the comments. Tomorrow we’ll cover the fourth mistake made when trying to reach emotiona depth: Writing Outside the Plot.

Did you see what’s new over at the Teen Seen today? I think this blog is starting to get pretty interesting!



Milli Thornton said...

Great post, Jenny!

J.R. Turner said...

Thanks so much Millikins!! :) It's so great to see your smiling face here :)

Jen-bug ;)