Writing Emotions

I am a very emotional person and it shows up in my writing. I just can’t seem to help myself. It’s so ingrained in me. The novel I’m writing has so much intense emotion it I wonder if it’s too much. There is lots of sorrow tempered with joy, with humor thrown in to keep it lighten it up at times, and anger. Since my main characters are dealing with significant mental health issues and meet on a psych ward, I guess the reader won’t be surprised by it, but I am worried it’s too much.

In my own defense, I’m trying to give each prominent character a good blend, but let’s face it, in real life, some people are more emotional than others. The other thing is I get bored quickly when characters are consistently written matter of fact unless that is the personality of one specific individual. But if someone typically writes without much emotional reaction to situations, or by psychological make up, then I’m saying, “Ho hum, where’s my cross stitching?”

What do I mean by matter of fact? It’s self-explanatory, really. It usually happens because the writer is telling, more than showing, but even in the telling, he gives mostly information about what’s going on and offers tepid emotional thoughts, feelings, and reactions at best. Here is an example in the following dialogue:

Scenario: Sabrina tells her husband Harold that she is leaving him for her boss Jack .

“How could you do this to me?” he said.

” Jack is charismatic; he likes to live dangerously. You on the other hand, are noble, kind, and tender.”

“I see,” said Harold. Most people love those qualities. We’ve been together for ten years and you never said a word. Why don’t we get some marriage counseling? Seems the only fair thing to do.”

“You see, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Little goody two shoes Harold,” said Sabrina.

“Jack’s a womanizer and a gambler. It won’t last long. This goody two shoes won’t be waiting for you.”

“No chance I’ll be wanting you back. Goodbye Harold.” She turned and left.

Harold should be enraged or bereft, shouting or groveling, devastated or in shock. This scenario doesn’t have the intensity it deserves. Try this version:

Scenario: Sabrina tells her husband Harold that she leaving him for her boss Jack.

Harold felt like he’d been punched in the stomach; his heart turned over in his chest. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I don’t get it. You never let on you weren’t happy. How could you do this?” Tears threatened to spill out his eyes. He began to pace, trying to process. “Why Sabrina? Why are you doing this?”

Sabrina sneered. “I’ll tell you why: Jack is exciting, charismatic, lives dangerously. You, on the other hand, are kind, dependable, tender.” She moved up to him, nearly nose to nose, hands on her hips.You bore me, Harold. Jack is like, I don’t know, a spicy Margarita, and you’re like a warm beer. Boring, flat, tasteless.” Mocking spittle hit his face.

Seeing how much pleasure she took in saying it crushed him. And then he was furious. You married me, and always expressed your appreciation of my character. You want to exchange me for a sleeze ball like Jack go for it. One day you’ll be the boring one and he’ll toss you aside for the next bimbo. That’s what guys like him do. This goody two shoes won’t be around to put you back together again. You know I’m telling the truth.”

He saw her squirm and swallow hard. “You’re wrong,” she screamed, and stormed out.

I know what you’re thinking, the margarita beer metaphors are pretty cheesy. Well, forgive me, I’m doing this spur of the moment. Here is a list of what enhanced the second scenario:

  • Physical Sensation: Felt like he was punched in the stomach; heart turned over in his chest; tears threatened to spill out his eyes.
  • Posturing, Gesturing, Movement: He began to pace, trying to process; she moved up to him, nearly nose to nose, hands on her hips; she stormed out.
  • Other Physical Manifestations: Mocking spittle in his face; he saw her squirm and swallow hard; Sabrina sneered; seeing how much pleasure she took in saying it.
  • Voice: She screamed
  • Emotion Words: It crushed him; he was furious.
  • Personality: Jack is exciting, charismatic, lives dangerously, like spicy Margarita, sleaze ball; Harold is kind, dependable, and tender, like warm beer, boring, flat, tasteless, goody two shoes.
  • Stronger Word Use: Harold’s “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” shows shock and incredulity; Sabrina’s words, “You bore me” along with her posturing show more intense humiliation and intimidation;

I want to go on but it’s late at night and I can barely keep my eyes open. That’s not emotion, that’s my physical state. lol Goodnight everyone.


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