Rhobin’s question for June, 2106 is: How emotionally involved are you in reading or writing some scenes?
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?
There is a guided imagery exercise I recommend to some writers whose work I edit. 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 pounding footsteps repeatedly sinking into soft ground, feel the rain lashing my face, my soggy clothes weighing me down…
Next, I need to be dealing 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 that I next need to write about my hero witnessing the death of one of his friends, who has just sacrificed his life to save mine… oops, my character’s. Because I AM the character, I am IN the scene, I don’t need to try to incorporate emotion. It’s there.
Oh no. OH NO! Bill couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, just looked at the smoking crater in the ground where Olaf had tackled the man a second ago. The man’s head lay on the path, twenty metres ahead. Olaf’s legs were the only part of him left.
Dinika vomited on the ground.
Kallik said, “He is bound to have a partner. Brian, Dinika, we have to stop him.”
Bill saw the three of them advance, but was unable to move, himself. Jarnie. Now Olaf. Oh no. He has just gained happiness. Wife, son. He died for me. Oh no. When will it end?
His friends were walking back, with another man between them. Brian was carrying a steel box. Obviously, they’d got his bomb out.
“Bill, my dear,” Kallik said gently, hugging him. “You know I’m a police sergeant back home. I’ve seen death before.” She looked at their captive. “This one is Les.”
Two policemen stood in front of him. He hadn’t even noticed them approach. Kallik stepped forward and showed them a plastic card, then talked with them.
One of the policemen pulled a phone from his pocket and listened. Bill could hear Brigadier-General Hutton’s voice. Brian and Dinika give their reports. Then Kallik led him back to the car.
He knew if he tried to speak, he would howl like a child. The world was just too heavy, and it bore him down, and he couldn’t go on. How many would be murdered because of him? And all such good people. I should stop. Being on my team is dangerous. I can’t lead people if I then have them killed. I just can’t do it.
Have I managed to capture the emotion?
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