Tag Archive - Masterful Telling of Emotion

How to Effectively “Tell” Emotions in Fiction

This post originally, drawn from material in my Emotional Mastery course, ran on Larry Brooks’s blog in the summer. Reprinted here for your edification!

Many amateur writers ineffectively tell or name what a character’s emotions are. That’s often because they haven’t learned masterful ways to get the emotion across.

Telling an emotion doesn’t make readers feel or experience the emotion. It often creates more problems: the writing gets burdened with lists of emotions, and in the writer’s attempt to push harder in the hope of conveying emotion, she overdoes it. Adding to that, she might throw in all those body sensations for good measure, cramming the prose with so much “emotion” that the only thing readers feel is irritation.

Yet, there may be times when telling emotion is masterfully done. You can find plenty of excellent novels in which characters name the emotions they’re feeling. Continue Reading…

Evoking Emotions in Readers in a Masterful Way – Part 4

We’ve been looking at the way thoughts lead to emotions, and how getting into our characters’ thoughts can be a powerful tool to evoking emotion in our readers. Which is our prime objective as fiction writers.

Part of the natural behavior humans engage in is processing. Something happens, we process it. We do this every waking moment. I’ve written numerous posts on this much-overlooked natural behavior that our characters, as well, need to engage in.

At any given moment in your scene, a character is either acting, reacting, processing, making a new decision, or initiating a new action. This whole cycle could take place, at times, over a few seconds, or it could take hours. It depends.

On what? On what is happening. Fast-action scenes in high-octane thrillers might have characters going through this cycle repeatedly every few seconds. A killer runs through a crowd. The hero follows, sees the killer run into traffic, then reacts. Quickly, he decides to go around the block (after processing his choices and the best chance he has of catching the bad guy), then rushes off (new action).

At other times, those down times in a thriller, your character may be able to kick back and spend some minutes processing. Maybe even days mulling over a situation and trying to figure a way out or around (while lots of other action is continuing to play out in the novel). Continue Reading…

Masterful Telling of Emotion

Today’s guest post is by Nina Schuyler. It continues our look at masterful writing, introducing the element of emotional content in our novels. The craft of not only expressing emotion  in our characters but also evoking emotion in our readers is one of the most important things to master in fiction writing. In this post, Nina Schuyler shows us that telling about emotions can be just as powerful as showing those emotions in your characters.

Early on, when I was young and innocent and studying writing, it was vigorously pounded in my head that I must never ever tell a character’s emotion. T. S. Eliot’s “objective correlative” entered the conversation (events, objects, and actions must stand for or correlate to the desired emotion), along with fiction’s allure, which is to give readers an embodied experience—or as George Saunders tells storytellers, “Go forth and delight!”

But now, having read more, studied more, gotten older, I’ve encountered plenty of published works that tell the emotion. It’s right there, in big letters, winking at me—HE FELT. SHE FEELS—sad, happy, joyful, angry, embarrassed. And I do experience the told emotion. How is this possible? What’s going on?

The magic is in the way the telling is done. Continue Reading…