Thursday, January 16, 2014

HOW TO PORTRAY EMOTIONS


We’ve been talking about some of the elements of story, but what is story? Conflict. What fuels conflict? Emotion. Let’s see how emotion works by using a few examples.

            1.  She felt happy that Tim had returned.
            2.  He was annoyed since Tim was late.
            3.  He was angry that Tim showed up.
            4.  She was frightened that Tim found her.

 These are examples of telling rather than showing. They relate information about the characters reaction to Tim, but it is dry as a laundry list and doesn’t engage the reader. It’s the writer’s job to allow the reader to feel the character’s emotions. This holds the reader’s interest and pulls him into the story. First, let’s let the characters show how they feel about Tim by using dialogue.

            1. “Tim. It’s wonderful to see you.”     (happy)
            2.  “It’s about time, Tim.”                     (annoyed)
            3.  “Tim, how did you get in here?”      (angry)
            4.  “It’s Tim. Hide.”                               (frightened)

 Now we’ve stepped into the characters’ world. Through their voices, we hear what they feel about Tim’s appearance. Let’s get closer to the characters and add their visceral reactions.

            1. Warmth washed over her face. “Tim. It’s wonderful to see you.”
            2.  His jaw tightened. “It’s about time, Tim.”
            3.  He ground his teeth. “Tim, how did you get in here?”
            4.  Time seemed to stop. “It’s Tim. Hide.”

 Now we’re getting their primitive reactions to Tim. Let’s add their thoughts.

            1. Warmth washed over her face. “Tim. It’s wonderful to see you.” My goodness. How handsome he’s grown. And no ring.                 
            2.  His jaw tightened. “It’s about time, Tim.” Moron. The clients have been twiddling their thumbs half the morning.
            3.  He ground his teeth. “Tim, how did you get in here?” Did he plant any bugs on his way in? I’m going to fire that airhead receptionist.
            4.  Time seemed to stop. “It’s Tim. Hide.” He said he’d find us. He said he’d kill us.

 We know exactly how the characters feel about Tim and why. Now we understand their motives and participate vicariously in their actions.

           1. Warmth washed over her face. “Tim. It’s wonderful to see you.” My goodness. How handsome he’s grown. And no ring. She tore her gaze from his soft eyes and patted the open stool next to her. “Join me for coffee?”               
            2.  His jaw tightened. “It’s about time, Tim.” Moron. The clients have been twiddling their thumbs half the morning. He grabbed Tim’s arm and dragged him toward the boardroom
            3.  He ground his teeth. “Tim, how did you get in here?” Did he plant any bugs on his way in? I’m going to fire that airhead receptionist. He punched the button that alerted security.
            4.  Time seemed to stop. “It’s Tim. Hide.” He said he’d find us. He said he’d kill us. She shoved the children behind the couch, grabbed the gun, and aimed at the door.

Using dialogue, visceral reaction, thoughts, and action, the writer draws his readers into the story world by allowing them to feel the characters’ emotions and participate in their actions. As the emotions meet obstacles, conflict heightens and the plot progresses.—Quinn

 

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