Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Musings: January 25 2015

Your emotion?

Hello Musers!

How many of you, well those on Facebook, have noticed a notice implying if there's no emotion in the author there will be no emotion in the reader. I guess that's right. Or maybe I'm not that emotional a writer...fiction-wise. For me, I get excited writing and whatever emotion there is I'm still excited for the whole story. Maybe that's my emotional connection?

As you can guess, this weeks' musing is: How do you write a difficult emotion? Why is that emotion difficult for you?

Let's get musing...

I have the hardest time with fear, perhaps because I don't enjoy being scared. I'm not especially fond of horror movies, I'm wary of giant roller coasters, and I don't read much in the way of horror. I struggle with conveying fear effectively.

Here's a poem of mine where I was attempting to convey the quality of a nightmare:

In Sleep
by Margaret Fieland

Shadows creep up stairs,
whispers echo in a hall,
footsteps slither
under a door.
A floor creaks.
Blood thumps
in my ears, drowns
cries of murmuring wind.
I cross a vacant cafe
where demons dine on ashes,
enter an empty room,
rest on a floor.
Splinters stab my palms.
I'm dragged down to dark.


Shadows creep up stairs,
whispers echo in a hall,
footsteps shuffle round
corners, slither under a door.
A floor creaks, blood thumps
in my ears, drowns
cries of murmuring wind
in trees. In a hotel,
I cross a vacant cafe
where demons dine
on ashes,
enter an empty room,
rest on a floor.
Splinters stab my palms.
I open a door
to nowhere.

When I was first writing my recently published YA novel, After, I had a very difficult time conveying the complex emotions you feel when a loved one is in serious condition in a hospital. I thought I had written what would be a very emotional scene, but when I got back the comments from my critique group all of them said the writing was flat!! How could that be when I was feeling so awful at the time and I basically wrote all of my feelings out? We discussed it and their advice was that maybe I was too close to the material and what I had to do was separate myself from the scene and write it in a way more objective way. So I rewrote these scenes and though it created emotions in me I wasn’t sure it was going to work with other readers. But it did bring back those horrible emotional scenes and though I had to place a wall between the scene and myself to write it, actually acting like I was filming the scene, the emotions were raw and true. I am talking about this very subject on Sara-Jayne Townsend’s blog: Monday’s Friend  If you are interested in seeing more about how I was able to write about the emotions and what these were you can go to the interview.

This really showed me that it is important to distance yourself from an emotional experience before you write about it. Otherwise you can’t convey the emotional strength you need to have to get readers engaged. You want your characters to be emoting and not in a cardboard way.

I don't have a problem with most emotions. I put myself in my characters' minds and let them handle the emotions in their own way.  The only time I failed was when I needed to bring Varn (Star Commandos male protagonist) to the point of consciously willed suicide.  I could achieve desperation, but not that.  I had to abandon the segment entirely and handle the situation differently.


When I first started writing about my experiences growing up with a bipolar father and the murder of my sister Colette, I knew I was missing something.  Sure, the scenes were intense, graphic, and had most of my fellow UCI classmates, including the professor, speechless.  Then I figured it out: I was not showing the raw emotion.  It’s hard to dig deep inside to bring these to the surface.  Case in point, Concha, the mother of Lupe, abandoned her at a young age.  It would have been so easy to just show her as hardcore, unfeeling, and hard.  I dug deep and wrote a scene that had me in tears.  It peeled back her vulnerability or like one of my writing mentor’s says, the character’s ‘wound’.  It was tough to write but I know it shows readers the ‘why’ behind her character. 

 Readers don’t like one dimensional characters.  I know as a reviewer, I want to see the many different sides to characters.  They don’t have to be totally likable but there has to be some type of wound or faulty thinking.  I feel to show this, you have to dig deep and go to those emotions.  Don’t leave anything back.

DAWN KNOX, author

The emotion I dislike writing about most, is grief. Getting inside the head of a character is the only way I know of conveying emotions when I’m writing. But I find it upsetting to try to get into the mindset of a character who is experiencing tragedy.

Mostly, what I write is upbeat and my current work in progress is a light-hearted and absurd story about garden gnomes and elves where there are a range of emotions but so far, no grief. 

Thanks for joining us and see you next week!

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman at

No comments: