Considering Emotions, Part 2: Creating Characters

Glass-Case-of-emotionThis post is the second installment in a two part series regarding the role of emotions in writing. The first post explored the different emotions our readers are experiencing (or that we want them to experience) when they read our work.

In this post I will open up a discussion about considering emotion when developing characters in our stories.

But before I delve into today’s topic, I’d like to quickly recall how contemplating different human emotions before you start writing can help you get in touch with your ideas and make connections therein.

With busy lives and technology constantly separating us from genuine connections – both with others and ourselves – it can often be a struggle for us to even list off different emotions. I recommend Googling “list of emotions” or “list of feelings” and reading through the results.

Exploring different emotions is crucial to the writing process because it’s not necessarily what happens in a story that hooks us, but the cognitive response that the characters experience and our ability to relate to those responses.

Start With a Feeling

Do you have writer’s block? Are you struggling to think of a great storyline, but can’t seem to scare one up? The best advice I can give you is to start with a feeling.

Check out that list of emotions you Googled. Go through each of the words listed – Doomed, Appalled, Blissful, Prideful, Disappointed – imagine someone who might be feeling these things. What would lead them to feel this way? How long have they felt this way? How does this feeling make them act toward others, themselves?

Now we are getting somewhere!

Perhaps after reading that list you now have a character who is feeling prideful about a new dress she just bought in order to impress a socialite she hopes to befriend. While she’s out wearing the dress, she feels “above” all the “peasants” wearing non-designer attire, but when she’s alone, she cries herself to sleep.

Now I’m just playing and spitballing of course, but do you see how we already have a character slightly developed and even a bit of a story falling into place? All from picking one emotion: pride!

Come Back to The Feeling

As your story develops, don’t forget to come back to that emotion. In fact, you might consider giving the character a certain quirk that accompanies the emotion – something like twirling her hair when nervous or sticking her nose up when feeling prideful. Attaching a mannerism to a feeling can really humanize your character.

Events + Feelings = Whole Story

Think of your story as a scale – one side is Events, the other side is Feelings.

You want your scale to be equal, so if you put weight into the events, be sure to try and balance it out with feelings; the two complement each other.

As certain events unfold throughout your story, your characters react and develop. These reactions spur more events, which produce more feelings. It’s a beautiful thing.

What other elements do you consider when developing emotions for a character? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Ultimate Reviews 

But Isn’t Writing Easy?

easy-buttonI was recently out with friends when we began talking to a new group of people. I introduced myself to a gentleman in the group and the inevitable question came up, “what do you do?”.

He had mentioned that he did something pertaining to finance or business – I can’t quite remember, but at the time I showed interest. When I explained that I’m a writer, he made a face and said, “But isn’t that easy?”.

No I didn’t meet this young lad at a Mensa meeting, or a meeting of tactful people at that, but I did begin to wonder how many people really perceive writing as “easy”.

I was an English major in college. Growing up I always loved reading and was doted on by teachers for my writing skills. Despite a natural draw to literature and the writing process, I still often loathe writing. To be honest, the writing process makes me sick sometimes – I mean actual, physical sickness. Why is this?

For me, writing is hard work! Sometimes I literally sweat while I write. Writhing to put down the right words. Face reddened. Does this happen to you as well, Mod Writer? Or should I simply consider a new anti-persperant?

I was really struggling with this whole idea when I came across this quote from Thomas Mann:

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” -Thomas Mann

Perhaps it’s normal as a writer, with our perfectionist mentality, to find writing to be a chore. To be truly pleased with our final product, we often have to reach deep down to extract our best work. It’s exhausting, and at times overwhelming, but I think that the payoff comes when we know that what’s been created has come from our own true, hard work.

Do you find writing to be easy? Have you ever had someone say something like this to you about your career? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Travel Blog Advice