Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing that evokes emotion

So as I mentioned in a previous post I just finished reading Stein's On Writing. Great book, if you have not read it yet you need to. It is so fantastic!

Well in the book he touches on our role as writers. Most writers say they write to express themselves or to tell a story. He says that's wrong. You should be writing to evoke emotion in your reader. What does that mean exactly? The long and short of it is that we, as people, experience everyday life. Don't write about everyday life. Write with feeling. Develop characters with feeling. Show drama and intensity and tension throughout your book so your story, even if it's a quiet story, leaves that reader feeling something.

I thought for a bit about how to do this exactly when suddenly it occurred to me that anything BIG that has ever happened in our lives inflicted emotion in us. Death does not only make us sad. It causes our bodies to ache. Our brains to feel like mush. Death changes our bodies and minds in ways the word "sad" could never convey. So why would a writer ever use the word sad? The answer is simple - we shouldn't. It does our story a disservice to describe emotions. And what about a happy time? Let's say you're on the track team and to be honest, you're not that good. You get by. You never embarrass yourself, but you never make your team shine. Then one day, one meet, you do it. Something inside you comes to life and you race around the track with more drive than your dad's old Chevy. Now all the sudden you feel some self-worth. Your mind is all over the place, excitement and exhaustion move through you in equal measure, but you can't give up, won't give up. You cross the finish line and set a new record for your team. Does happy describe how you feel? Heck no! Happy doesn't even come close! So why ever use that word or any other word similar to happy?

What's the point of this post? When big things happen in your story go big. Your character's body should feel different, things should smell different, taste different, even look different? Why? Because we are talking about fiction and if in our real life the words sad and happy do not work then in our writing the words don’t even come close.

Monet painted beautiful landscapes, but none of them ever looked like a true landscape. He dramatized art. You should too. I would love to see/read samples of how you have showed an emotion in your writing. We're all learning write? If you're willing and brave post a reply with a sample of "showing" emotion.

M.B.

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