1. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    Expressing depth of feeling.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by StormWarrior, Aug 8, 2008.

    Some of my characters are very emotional. This may be hard for me to write because I'm a cold, unemotional Capricorn without great depth of feeling. Also, some of my characters are going to be in situations that I have not been in personally. Have any of you ever had this problem? What's a good way to go about realistically describing emotions you've never really felt?
     
  2. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    Yes.

    When I took drama, we were taught to tap into the emotions that we experienced before in order to heighten the ones that we'll have to be performing now, even if we've never been in the situation. I've never dated a senator. Never been a mistress. Never was a good pretender. I don't even have a younger sister, and I wouldn't know how to react if she (the one that doesn't exist) ever insinuates that I was having an affair. But this was the part I chose to play, and I had to find some tangible moment in my life to focus on in order to understand it and make that character real on stage.

    So I thought: Hm, never dated a senator, but I did date a guy, did have crushes. Never had a sister, but I had brothers. Never had anyone tell me I was out to ruin someone's marriage, but I've been shocked before by things people say. Never dated a married man who wouldn't leave his wife for me, but I have felt betrayed by some friends many times before but always forgave them. And so I drew on those emotions instead. If you don't have it, find something similar. There are plenty of stories, books, newspaper/magazine articles laying around full of vital information you can use also for inspiration.

    That's the process I apply to my writing. And I'm sure you're not as emotionless as you say you are. Even if you are now, I'm sure at one point in your life you've been through the basics: sad, anger, disgust, fear, love, etc. Draw on those experiences and try to go into as much depth as you can about what you felt at the time.

    That may help.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would start with two kinds of research. One is peoplewatching, which I feel is valuable in any case for writing characters. Take note of what you hear, but even more what you see. The words we speak, in a face to face situration, carry less than ten poercent of our message. This is even more true of high emotional content. So although dialogue is important, posture, facial expressions, and actions are even more expressive.

    The other avenue of research is reading how other writers convey a character's emotion. Very often, the adage "Less is more" comes into play. A tight jaw, a stubborn silence may convey a deeper anger than shouting does. So read a lot, and when you fins a passage that conveys emotions like the ones you are looking to write, go back and carefully pick apart how that writer built up the mood.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as usual, cog has nailed it neatly... watch and read!
     
  5. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Yes... I start by plunging my fist into my own heart and ripping the emotions from me.

    Sure we can't feel it... if it happens to someone else...

    Then stop... Now it is you... now your the one that is facing this... try and feel them out... not "If I was there" but start to think "I AM there"

    It might help.
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    This not meant to hijack this thread...it's a serious question.

    Emoticons have become common in writing on the internet in order to clarify emotional content in written communication. How long will it be until emoticons show up in literature?
     
  7. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    HOPEFULLY NOT EVER.
     
  8. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    The best way I know to create empathy with characters whose experiences you've never shared is to imagine yourself in their place. I too have trouble with character emotions, which is too bad, because I recognize they're one of the most compelling aspects of a story. Why should a reader care what happens to the character, when the character doesn't care about anything?

    I think this is a common problem though. I suspect a lot of writers shy away form writing the really emotionally moving scenes. I try to iron out that weakness by making myself tackle strong character emotion whether I want to or not, but then it's always an effort to keep it from sounding forced.

    Edit: I wouldn't know whether to laugh or be terrified of a book with emoticons. Lol.
     
  9. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I use emoticons quite often when I feel that my posts are of a more conversational nature, and more than anything else, I use them to illustrate the tone of what I'm saying - in place of actual tone and facial expression - or if I find a smilie that is irresistably cute (I have a very real obsession with ninja smilies....)

    However, the more seriously I wish to be taken, the less likely it is that an emoticon will appear in my posts, and certainly while at times I wish an illustration could accompany some of my writing - I hereby declare that I will NEVER stoop to using a smilie to illustrate what should be indicated by words!
    (We should get a petition going as a preventative measure...)
     
  10. Ore-Sama
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    Ore-Sama Senior Member

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    lol da chix went omg!!!111111 when she saw da monster go RFLOMAO and she was like :eek:

    That will the opening line of a typical novel anywhere form 30-100 years from now, almost certain.
     
  11. inkslinger
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    inkslinger Contributing Member

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    I always try not to go overboard whenever writing an emotional scene or trying to convey the emotion of a certain character. What I personally remind myself whenever writing such a scene, is that word selection is key. You can write an entire paragraph describing that characters emotion, but if you're not choosing the right words, it's going to be overboard description or lacking the proper impact you had in mind. However, if you choose the right words, even if the sentences/paragraph are shorter, you're giving the characters emotions more of an impact.

    Sometimes you can get the depth of that characters emotions across in a sentence or two if you're using the right wording. Overloading and trying too hard to describe their feelings are a common mistake, imo.
     
  12. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I always just put myself in my characters' heads, i. e., "become" them. I try to see everything from THEIR point of view and THEIR thought processes and emotional reactions to things. Seeing as some characters are vastly different from me, with completely different values, and they're usually in situations I've never been in (fantasy writing), this can be tricky, but for some reason it's always come easily to me. This might be because I'm pretty emotional myself, so even though I'm not like some of these characters and their emotions aren't the same as mine, still, they're emotions, and I know those pretty well. I imagine it would be more difficult in your situation since you say you're not emotional at all.

    Maybe try it out anyway, "pretend" you're an emotional character? Start reacting to things in an exaggerated way. I'm not recommending putting these exaggerated reactions in your writing (they might come across as silly), but if you're unemotional, you might have to exaggerate emotions first to try to understand them. Don't be afraid to go over the top when no one's watching. Then if you get the hang of that, you can try to modify it as the written situation demands.

    Try acting, I guess is what I'm saying. Sometimes when one acts out an emotion they don't feel, they can begin to understand it better.

    I realize this isn't terribly helpful, I guess I just take it for granted that I can slip into my characters' minds so easily.
     
  13. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    I can only hope I am long dead by the time that happens.

    However: tehuti88

    Expounded on what I had tried to say. Very well said tehuti88. :D (Sorry had to)
     
  14. Adelaide
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    Adelaide Member

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    Like Gannon said, what is unsaid often expresses mores acutely the depth of a character's emotion than what is spoken out loud. The pauses, silences and hesitations of your character give insight into what he/she is reluctant to make known, which would probably include the most powerful and personal aspects of his/her emotional life. I have found small movements---a flicker of the eyes, tensing of the hands, biting of the lips---speak volumes more than any blatant dialogue could.
     
  15. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a reason they call it "touchy-feely."
     

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