Evoking Emotion

                              Photo by Bubble Head H_W

When I’m looking for a novel to read, I’m actually looking for something that matches my mood. For example, if all is feeling rosy for me, I may seek a novel in the romance genre. Sometimes when I’m ambivalent, I’ll trawl the bookshelves in a book shop and see if any of the covers catch my eye.

I find that I also listen to music that corresponds with my mood. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which I find to be an upbeat classical sound. So know you know what mood I’m in now!

There are many descriptions to show emotion – biting the lip, reddening cheeks…But they are descriptions that show what’s happening ‘outside’ the character, rather than what’s happening ‘within’. Of course we can use – quickening of the heart beat, dizziness…But what about using symbolism?

We can use symbolism such as rain drops weaving their way down a window pane to mirror the sadness within a character. Fear can be induced by a foggy night, the child-like shrieks of foxes or a thunderstorm. These already have meanings attached to them so the reader can relate to them immediately.

I like to use the contents of a women’s handbag, the state of a garden or house to help define a character and how their life feels to them. For example, the constant returning of dust on a mantelpiece  can demonstrate hopelessness.

I also like to use smoking or drinking to demonstrate a character’s weakness in coping with adversity or stress. Hence, when a character lights a cigarette, the reader comes to recognise that the character is stressed or troubled without me actually using the word – they can see it for themselves. I am aiming for the emotion to emerge from the page by using settings, objects or atmosphere, rather than just stating the physical feelings of the character.

However, I do still use phrases such as ‘his heart pounded in his ears’ because I feel there is a place for such phrases as long as they aren’t over used. Early on in the novel, I try to link such phrases with objects or habits so that later i can just use them and the reader is ‘right there’ with the character’s emotion..

Every time I write a new WIP I try to develop these skills further to hopefully reach the reader in an improved way. The best thing to do with all these elements of  writing is to keep writing, keep reading and keep believing.

Happy Word Flow One & All

2 thoughts on “Evoking Emotion

  1. Books and music also go with the flow of my moods… I had a tough time choosing which book to read next, after the Life of Pi.. I picked a book with a girl looking pretty sad, yet the book discusses parallel lives, which I feel my brother and I are experiencing at the moment. Books, in turn, must give me “meaning” to what I am going through.

    Thanks so much for this post, it will also help me with my writing.



  2. Thanks for you comment Kim, I'm glad you found it useful. You have a lot of experience in your life that will undoubtedly give an edge to your writing.
    Take care


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