Emotional Writing

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about emotions and how they affect both a story…and the real life behind that story.

In order for me to write something emotional, I have to experience it too. Not just in an academic sense. “Sally smiled. ‘I love you, Bob,’ she said…”  I have to experience it, the same way my character would. That means, in order to write something believable, I need to love Bob. Not only that, but I have to understand all of the nuances between those characters in order to know WHY Sally is wild about Bob.

But love is an emotion, right? And feelings aren’t supposed to be rational. When people fall in love, all of a sudden they are out of their mind. You find Sally thinking things like, Will Bob call? Why isn’t Bob calling? BOB CALLED! What do I say…

There shouldn’t be rational thought behind why Sally loves Bob…she just does. But when I sit down to write, I find myself doing just that…trying to make logical sense of the emotions pouring out. Why, you ask? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because if I were in the same situation, I’d appreciate the hindsight.

Sometimes that thought process causes a problem. When you write characters, (like Sally) you need to create a whole separate being that exists outside of yourself and is exempt from getting tangled up in your own personal ideas about what’s great about Bob. That is the sterile approach.

But what happens when your own emotions get snarled into your writing?

That is when things start getting interesting. When your character says something unexpected, let them have their voice. So, the question begs…where does that emotion come from? Is it your character doing the feeling—or you? The answer? It’s complicated. You can google, “How to write emotion,” and find HUNDREDS of pages dedicated to telling you how it’s done…this ain’t one of them.

In order for me, and by extension—anything I write, to feel emotions like anger, love or hate, I have to go to places that make me uncomfortable…like wearing an itchy wool sweater in the middle of summer on a trip into the desert.

It doesn’t end there. Once you are nice and miserable, those emotions need to spill out onto paper, where eventually someone will pick them up to read. I’m positive I’m not alone here when I say—that’s embarrassing, folks. Why? Because we are all experts at hiding our true emotions, and when you set them onto paper, you’re exposed. It’s like being caught with your pants around your ankles on the dance floor of your Aunt Gurtie’s wedding.

It is not for the faint of heart, but for the brave few willing to shake their bare ass right at the camera and laugh, it’s so worth the ride.