The incredible Christine picked the topic for this round on the Blog Chain, so please be sure to check out her starting post. And I’m first up….eep! Christine wants to know:
How do you add emotional depth to your stories? How to do know when you have enough emotional content? And how to you keep it authentic?
This is another of those elements where I hope I accomplish what I set out to achieve…but I’m never quite sure until my betas get back to me.
How do I add the emotional depth and keep it authentic?
I try to infuse my own experiences into my characters reactions. I’ve had loved ones die. I’ve been dumped. I’ve done the dumping. I’ve been thrilled, lonely, scared, ecstatic, terrified, in love, in hate….I’ve run a very large gamut of emotions in my twisted little life, and I try to add those emotions into my stories. I want to make my readers feel how I felt in certain situations. If my character is watching her love die, I want my reader to be sobbing in their easy chairs as they read about it.
If I come across an emotion that I haven’t experienced, I do a little research. Movies are great for this, for me anyways. Because I tend to be extremely (and perhaps overly) empathetic. I’m the chick bawling at the Hallmark commercial. But, while this can often be an embarrassing problem, when it comes to writing it is incredibly helpful. Because I can use the overactive imagination I was blessed (cursed?) with and put myself in the situation I am watching.
Maybe the emotions I come up with aren’t how I would really feel in certain situations. But that doesn’t make them any less real. I think as long as the emotions you are weaving into your books are real, and if they are backed by believable motivations, even if they are strange for the situation, they can be authentic.
Honestly, I just try to put myself in my character’s shoes. My character is holding her dying lover in her arms…how is that going to make her feel? Is she a tough character who never lets her emotions show? Will this wrench them out of her? To what degree? Will she hold it all in? How can I show that? Show the pain in her eyes, describe her shaking shoulders and trembling breath as the tears pour down her face and she screams her lover’s name? Maybe. If that works for the particular situation.
How do you know when you’ve got enough? Well, this is another instance where betas and crit partners can really help. Because there is a fine line between deeply emotional and overly cheesy. While it can be very subjective, if all of my critters are telling me to tone it down, I listen. I also let the scene sit for a while, and if it still gets me to that emotional place after a fresh read, it’s good. If I read it and my mind is wandering or I start thinking “Eh…getting a little cheese-tastic” then I need to amp it up or tone it down, as the situation calls for.
Adding that emotional layer can be tricky and it’s something I always struggle with and second-guess myself over. Which is why I thank my lucky stars for very talented critique partners who can help steer me in the right direction when I start wandering all over the map :)
Elana is next up on the chain (and it’s her last one so don’t miss it!!!) so be sure to head to her blog next for her take on this!