Emotion in Writing

Emotion in Writing 1024 576 Reader Views

by Bob Rich

Here is a question: to what extent is emotion involved in fiction?

I have a short and a long answer.

The short answer is to look at the derivation of the word “emotion.” Clearly, “e” refers to electronic, “motion” to, well, moving. This is all the same as email, e-book and e-reader.

Writing on paper means double work, because, to be useful, it still needs to be transcribed into a computer. And in our crazy world, paper means murdered trees. Besides, I can’t read my own handwriting. So, for many years now, I’ve learned to think on a keyboard.

Therefore, all my writing is e-motional.

Second, the long answer.

If a work of fiction is not about emotion, it’s not worth reading. Emotion IS fiction.

When people pick up a novel or a short story, it’s because they want to be entertained. This means, they want to be temporarily taken out of the reality of their lives, to escape its tensions and stresses, or its boredom and meaninglessness. They want to have a holiday in the reality the author has created.

You won’t get such a holiday in an intellectual exercise. If that’s your aim, you’ll play a game or read nonfiction.

Reading about the lives of my characters needs to induce people to feel emotions appropriate to the situation in the story. I need to portray the children of my imagination in a way to make that possible. And how on earth can I do that, unless I feel the emotions myself?

I recommend a guided imagery exercise to some of my editing clients. Get completely relaxed. Then imagine being the character whose point of view you are using to convey a scene. BE that person, in that situation. If you were to look in a mirror (which is hard to do when you’ve got your eyes closed), you would see your character, not yourself.

Now, feel what it is like to live in that body. I am bald, but my teenage hero has longish, straight hair. I can feel that hair tickling my ears, covering my forehead. I am a male, but the girl who is the witness to the current scene has rather big breasts. I HAVE them and need to adjust my back to take the weight. I am sitting quietly with my eyes closed, but the witness of my story is running hard, in pouring rain. I feel my feet repeatedly sinking into soft ground, feel the rain lashing my face, my soggy clothes weighing me down…

Next, I need to deal with the situation facing my character. And if it’s worth including in a story, it’s a situation that advances the plot in some way. That is, it needs to involve emotion. So, being the character, I feel the emotion.

Then I can open my eyes, and my fingers will fly on the keyboard.

Personally, I don’t need to carry out such a formal exercise. I’ve been at it long enough that I can look at a blank screen and know what needs to come.

Here is a brief extract from a short story, Another Form of Justice:

When Joe arrived home from school one day, Mother was not there. He phoned the restaurant but there was no answer. This is unheard of! What’s going on? Never mind the sticky heat, he ran to the restaurant, not willing to wait for a bus.

A black cloud stood above the buildings. No, it was smoke.

He speeded up, with Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! in rhythm with his pounding footsteps. He rounded the corner, but a yellow tape with CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS barred his way. Two big, red fire engines and several police cars were beyond it.

Unable to breathe, he had to lean down, hands on knees, but he needed to know. He ducked under the tape.

“Hey you! Out! Can’t you read?”

Joe looked up to see a big policeman glaring at him. “Sorry,” he managed to pant. “My mother…”

The man’s face softened. “Get back outside the line, and I’ll find out for you. Her name?”

“Toosan. Sir… what happened?”

“Some bastard threw a bomb into the Curuba restaurant.”

Joe obeyed the order.

The policeman turned and went beyond the firetruck, to return in a moment. “Sorry, lad. She’s been taken to Prince Charles Hospital. No one died in the attack, though.”

“Thank you, sir. Oh, what do I do?”

“Wait a moment.” The man went to one of the police cars, opened the driver’s door and leaned in for a short while. He returned, saying, “Someone is coming for you.”

Joe stood waiting, watching the action without seeing anything, until a red car arrived, with a middle-aged woman driving it.

“You must be the boy I’m here for,” she said through the open window.

“Thank you, ma’am. My mother is in Prince Charles Hospital, and—”

“Hop in.”

Can you feel Joe’s emotions? Have I got you into the story?

About the Author

Bob Rich is an Australian storyteller, with 19 published books in a variety of genres including both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books, and over 40 short stories, have won awards. He has retired 5 times so far, from 5 different occupations, but is still going strong as a Professional Grandfather. Any human born since 1993 qualifies as his grandchild.

Everything he does, including his writing, is working toward a survivable future for them, and one worth surviving in.

He carries on much of this work at his popular blog, Bobbing Around https://bobrich18.wordpress.com

He discovered that he was a Buddhist at 23 years of age, when a Christian minister of religion told him. In those pre-internet days, he needed to spend a day in the University library to check up on this claim, and to his surprise found his philosophy set out in beautiful words. He decided not to sue the Buddha for plagiarism, as an act of metta (lovingkindness).

Check out Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance

Join us on an epic journey older than civilization itself
Dr. Pip Lipkin has lived for 12,000 years, incarnated many times as man, woman, and even as species beyond our world and senses. But he’s here for a reason: to pay restitution for an ancient crime by working to save humanity from certain destruction. Ascending Spiral is a book that will take the reader to many different places and times, showing, ultimately, that our differences and divisions, even at their most devastating, are less important than our similarities.

Bob also has a number of other books available here: https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/bobs-booklist/#ascending


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