1. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    Writing... (ugh)... feelings

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by J.D. Ray, Feb 15, 2019.

    I have two MCs, Marko and Celeste; young people who are in a budding romantic relationship at the beginning of the story. Throughout the adventure, their relationship grows. I'm struggling to show how the characters feel and/or respond. I can identify places where I should put something in, but I have no clue what to say. This is probably reflective of a personality deficit on my part.

    In this scene, Celeste confronts Marko about his state of deep depression. They're having a private conversation (using English pretty much buffers them from everyone around them most of the time; Blaga, their cook, has picked up a bit).

    “Shh… Marko, please, Blaga understands more English than she lets on. Maybe not enough to understand what you’re saying, but she’s no dullard, either.”

    He looked through the kitchen door to find Blaga seated at the small table there, apparently having lunch of her own, smiling at him. He smiled back, and she pretended interest in her meal. Sighing, Marko lowered his voice and leaned toward Celeste. She smelled like flowers.
    I feel like I want to extend the sentence, "She smelled like flowers" to talk about how Marko responds to the sensation, but I don't know how. I tried several things, and they just fell flat and mechanical, such as, "She smelled like flowers, and that brought a bit of brightness to his otherwise dark mood." Bleh.

    I feel like if I read some work that is heavy with this sort of theme I could learn to parrot the style. Recommendations of any sort will be appreciated.

    JD
     
  2. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Hey there! Might I suggest writing about his reaction to the fact that she smelled like flowers?

    ...she smelled like flowers.
    The pit in his stomach dissolved a little. His white knuckles relaxed, and he stopped biting the inside of his lip. He could talk with her about this. He had that much courage, at least.

    Or something like that. I don't know your characters, so I'm not even sure if thats fitting, but I find that writing about the way in which a character reacts to stimulus always seems to get me out of a rut, even if it costs a few extra words! Hope that helps!
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    'She smelled like flowers', just left there, may very well be just right. I think that your writing tends to overexplain a bit.

    (Now I'm trying to remember if I reviewed one of your pieces and discussed that in more detail. I think I did?)
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think "she smelled like flowers" might well be enough, but if you really want more I'd suggest something directly related to the statement. "She smelled like flowers and he tried to breath in deeply without being obvious," or whatever.
     
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  5. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    It does, immensely. As I said, it's this sort of thing that I don't know how to do. I can paint the picture, both in description and dialog, but have a hard time writing about what the characters are feeling.

    Indeed, you've mentioned this before (as have others), and I take it to heart. This is just one example of many points where I evidently need to be more wordy. One reviewer told me it seemed like neither of the MCs possessed a limbic system. I've tried to infuse feeling into bits here and there (two perspectives on preparing for a swim, for instance, one of which won out, the other got robbed for a few sentences and put elsewhere).
     
  6. Harmonices

    Harmonices Senior Member

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    If you haven't written any love scenes for your young lovers yet, maybe you should literally spend a weekend, or whatnot, just writing love scenes for them. Try different points in the story, when they first get close, or later after a stressful adventure. Or another time when they're exhausted from running around in time and just need some physical contact to ground them. You could use the erotica sub-forum here for feedback. I don't know, but maybe it would help you get to know them more intimately, very intimately. How they feel, move, touch, how they look at one another and so on. You might be able to carry that through to the rest of your work?
     
  7. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    "She smelled like flowers" is my favorite sentence in there. Please don't get rid of it. Maybe convey the emotion you want in the dialogue that presumably comes directly afterwards?
     
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  8. Harmonices

    Harmonices Senior Member

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    I agree with someone else above. 'She smelled like flowers' is enough, you don't need to elaborate. It brings us closer to her, and to him, and to them. It's a lovely line.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But "she smelled like flowers" IS feelings. You don't have to actually use feelings words.
     
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  10. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've been trying to avoid putting blatant erotic description in there, primarily because I'm uncomfortable with it, but also because it's not my wheelhouse. "Write what you know", you know? I'm not entirely unromantic, but after 27 years with my wife, I'm perhaps a bit out of practice. :D

    Here's the (unedited, probably too wordy) passage I have where, after a few days in the 14th Century, they've finally had a chance to slow down and get some rest. If you haven't been following along with the other posts about this story, "Montis" is a (mostly derogatory) term describing people who have the artificial genes that give them multi-century life.

    By the third night of their stay, which, due to their ruse of being man and wife did not preclude them sharing a room, they were sufficiently accustomed to the rhythm of day and night that they didn’t immediately pass out upon blowing out the candle that provided the only light in the room. Marko laid in bed and watched Celeste disrobe down to the shift dress she had been sleeping in. Her long curls hung on her shoulders, and her eyes twinkled in the light of the candle. She smiled at him and blew out the candle, then crawled into bed next to him. After a moment, she said, “Marko?” He responded, but she didn’t say anything more. He reached out his hand to lay it on her hip, and realized that it was bare. Nervously he moved his hand along the curve of her body until it bumped against her breast.

    “You’re… um… you’re naked.” He wanted to kick himself for stating something so obvious and unromantic.

    “I am,” she said softly and moved until the entire length of her body was against his. She radiated warmth, and her soft breath tickled the hairs on his chest as she breathed. Marko’s entire body sung with energy like an iron beam that had been struck by a hammer. During their summer together, they had only spent a handful of weeks in each others’ presence. As their love for one another grew, there had been moments of passion -- lots of kissing and heavy petting of one another -- but their parents were almost always nearby, and really neither of them was of a mind to rush headlong into anything too intimate. People like them, Montis, were schooled since birth to take the longer view of things, and not spend themselves unwisely.

    “We haven’t really talked about this yet,” he said nervously. “Not that I haven’t wanted to, you know that. But we should…”

    “Shhh,” she said, and put her fingers against his lips. “I have an implant, and so pregnancy is not a concern. I love you, Marko, and I don’t see that anything else matters right now.”

    His mind went blank, bereft of anything they might talk about. He shucked off his medieval briefs and pulled her on top of him. Their lovemaking was energetic and all too brief, but satisfying for both of them. When they were finished, she cuddled up against his side, tickling his chest hair again with her breath. “I suppose this means I’ve been promoted from footman,” he said. She laughed, and after a few minutes they both fell into a deep and blissful sleep.

     
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  11. Harmonices

    Harmonices Senior Member

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    That's a nice scene. Sensitively done.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Can you clarify what you mean by "heavy with this sort of theme"? Gracefully expressing feelings of all types, or specifically romantic feelings?
     
  13. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    Graceful expression of feelings of all types is what I'm after, hopefully to include some of romance.
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Would it be in any way useful for me to go through one of your workshop pieces and, say, color-code the part that I see as explanation?

    I think that you're explaining feelings and, however contradictory it seems, that's deadening the feelings.
     
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  15. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    That would be outstanding. If it's easier, I'd be happy to provide you with a Word doc version. I find the markup tools here way too "clicky" for large editing efforts. Also, while highlighting my "failures" is useful, I really need examples of something that is good. But thank you for whatever you can provide.

    JD
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    So...I've highlighted a lot of "this is explanation" but that raises the obvious question, "Yeah, fine, but it can't just be cut, so what do I do instead?"

    I'm at the point where it's hard for me to explain without rewriting stuff in my own voice. NOT to suggest that you take on my voice, but to show how I would solve the same problems, and thus maybe give ideas, or maybe not.

    Would that be at all useful, or is it just, well, rude?
     
  17. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    Not rude at all, I appreciate the input. I'm (just) arrogant enough to realize that my voice MAY end up being better than yours in certain circumstances. ;)
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Oh, I'm not saying that my voice is better. But I can't make suggested changes in someone else's voice. It would be infinitely more useful if I could, but I can't.
     
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  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    So I played with the first several paragraphs of the Juric House sample.
     
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  20. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    - What they want? Do they know it?
    - What they don't wan't? Do they know it?
    - What they fear?
    - Why, why, why?
    - The best definition of depression I have heard is that it is unmourned sorrow. If so, then what are the unmourned sorrows and why they are unmourned?
    - Does either of them have any level of alexithymia? If so, then this would be very natural.
    Alexithymia could even bee kind of hook for some readers.
    - What is the base under they motivation?
    - How active/passive they are now and when it will change and why?

    After you know they emotional motivations you learn how they act and what they say - if they do.

    Do not parrot any style. Lear your characters so well that you can tell about them without parroting anything or anyone.

    And... If description is hard, you can go to dialog. If dialog is hard, you can go to action. If action is hard, you can go to description.

    "Marko lowered his voice and leaned toward Celeste. She smelled like flowers. Marko leaned more."

    Action => description => action ( and then... dialog?)


    (I am a bit alexithymic myself. Not very much but a bit. It is not rare among Aspies.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexithymia
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
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  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I have a tendency to mention Rumer Godden's An Episode of Sparrows all the time. It's possible that it's my favorite book.

    But I think of it because it does a good but subtle job of....well, mild spoilers.

    A good job of depicting the feelings of Lovejoy, the lonely, abandoned, opinionated, stubborn, rebellious little girl who wants what she wants and won't tolerate compromise. The boy who is fond of her. The boy who hates her. The opinionated, stubborn, rebellious grown man (a restaurant owner) who wants what he wants and won't tolerate compromise. (And whose finances are so precarious that his family takes care of Lovejoy for room and board while Lovejoy's mother runs off on her own life.) That man's wife. The downtrodden sister of two elderly sisters.

    We get all their feelings, but we don't get them explained to us. We get the man's awareness that Lovejoy sat dozing on the cold stairs all one night during one of her mother's brief visits, and the noises that he heard from the room that Lovejoy and the mother share, and you know how he feels about a mother who evicts her child from her room so that she can be alone with a man, but the book doesn't say what those feelings are in so many words.

    We see how Lovejoy anticipates her mother's next visit, pretties up the room, gets used flowers from the restaurant to please her mother. And then the mother doesn't come, and one of the women running the restaurant says something bad about the mother, and Lovejoy throws something at the woman, and, again, we don't need the author to explain why.

    We see how the boy feels about Lovejoy, in the description of, as I recall (can't seem to see the book on my shelf right now) the vulnerable look of her neck and chin, and in the things that he does for her.

    When they take Lovejoy's smart little coat away from her, I want to cry. But those feelings aren't explained. The author trusts us to get it.
     
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