by Dawn Ireland
My husband and I were discussing passion today. Why is it that some performances, books or other artistic media don’t make you feel? (happy, sad, angry, etc) I’ve been to plays where the actor or actress did everything right, yet somehow, you don’t believe them. I’ve read books that were well crafted, but in the end, that’s all I can say about them, “they were well crafted.”
Yes, you need to know how to develop characters and story, but I think truly inspiring stories go beyond that point. The writer encourages the reader to get emotionally caught up in the character’s struggles. But, how do you make them care?
To start with, you’re the one writing the story, and if you don’t sense the emotion of the moment, it probably won’t come across on the page. I come from a theater background, and there are several ways to capture an emotion.
Play music that inspires you. Why do you think action, mystery and romance movies use different background soundtracks? They help to set up expectations in our mind.
Think of a situation in your own life that mirrors the action in your manuscript. How did you feel when your dog died, or your husband proposed? What physical reaction did you have? What kind of thoughts went through your head? Borrow from your life, or your observations of people around you dealing with extreme situations.
Use examples from “Universal Themes.” We all know what it’s like to disappoint someone we care about, or feel that a friend has treated us unfairly. Take the things that we have all experienced, and use them so your reader will relate to your character.
One of the ways I measure the emotional impact of my scenes? I let the scene sit for several days, then go back and read it out loud. Does the dialogue and internal thought convey the emotion? Can I feel the anxiety, fear, hope? Does it come across in my voice? If it doesn’t, I go back and rethink the scene.
Oh, and not every scene needs to grab hold of the reader emotionally. Just as we don’t go through extremes of emotions every day, we use those high emotional scenes where they’ll have the best impact. Most of these will occur during the turning points in your book.
I never tire of trying to create emotion on the page, or discovering new passions in my life. Whether it’s learning to play an instrument, learning how to create a website or learning how to carve a griffin, I’m always caught up in the moment. I’m hoping you all have passions that inspire, amuse and challenge you.