Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for.... Emotion

For writers, emotion is a tricky thing. I can't tell you how many times I've reviewed someone's work and said 'but how does this make him/her feel?' Whatever situation your characters are thrown into, they need to react to them. And how they react is what's interesting.

Emotions aren't cut and dried. In fact, they're often irrational and complex. Showing the messiness of emotion is difficult, but when it's done well, it can drag the reader right into the story and have them emoting right along with the characters. Teenagers have particularly messy emotions and that's one of the reasons I love writing and reading YA so much. With all those confusing hormones rushing around, and new feelings to engage with, is it any wonder teens are unpredictable?

And unpredictability adds tension. We sit on a knife edge, unsure what the character might do. Last time they faced (add plot point here) they didn't react to it, they turned away and ignored it. What will they do this time? The trick is to show it. You don't want to say 'Jenny was humiliated'; you want to show that humiliation. Maybe her ears burn, her face flames or she just turns away to stare at the ground. Or maybe she doesn't do any of that. Maybe she doesn't let it get to her because that would show weakness. Maybe she just throws her shoulders back and eyeballs the person who's embarrassed her.

I consider myself a very emotional writer. All my books take my characters on an emotional journey. The biggest changes that occur are within themselves as a result of whatever I've put them through. I've just had two readers finish my new draft of Tail Lights and both of them have accused me of making them cry.

I guess I'm doing something right then....


  1. Emotion is so important. I just saw the film Oranges and Sunshine, and I don't think I've got any more tears yet. I think it's amazing how media such as books and film can have such a profound impact on our emotions.

  2. I think emotion is the most important thing to show in an MS. Otherwise it's too hard to feel empathy for the characters.

  3. Fantastic post. Emotion is really important. If there's no emotion then the reader won't be able to relate. The problem is to convey the right emotions at the right time.

  4. You're so right - emotion is such a big thing in writing. I find if I'm writing a particularly emotion scene, I really have to be in the right frame of mind, and it takes me a while to come down from being immersed like that.

    And yeah, making people cry when they're supposed to sounds perfect.

  5. creating enotion in the reader is a great accomplishment as a writer, well done.

  6. You're definitely doing something right. I was so happy when one of the beta readers of my now published novel said it made them cry. As a romance author, emotion is key.

  7. I love this post; emotion pulls us in, the allure of how will the MC define, cope and find their own way or solution. Emotion is key~