LESSON Emoting a character on the go

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Cammybatty, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. When writing a scene, many times we tend to rush through and just tell our readers/fellow writers how a character is feeling, favouring action over emotion. When this happens we do succeed in advancing the story and avoid it dragging on while we detail a character's facial expression. But this also can prevent us from connecting with the character, or distancing us from the emotion of the scene. So how can we balance action and emotion?

    1. Know your character's moods and their response. How does your character feel and react in a certain situation? The first thing to do is to decide how your character is feeling at this exact moment. How does this emotion affect them physically? Do they feel sick, or hyper alert? Does that convey fear, or is it excitement? Knowing how your character feels inside and out, even if you don't write it all down, is a good start. How your character is feeling will affect how they move. Describing a small movement, such as a facial twitch, an itch, a lifting of the eyebrows or even a widening/narrowing of the eyes goes a long way to subtly draw the reader in to the mindset of the character.

    2. How does the character perceive their world through their emotion? This is one half of the equation, especially if this is a character you're privy to. Tree branches can look quite menacing to someone who is terrified. They can seem to reach out and catch at them. On the other hand, they could be just in the way; something flimsy to be swatted away like an annoying insect. A wall can seem a cool comfort to sweaty skin, or a cold, harsh reminder of an unpleasant situation. Always spare a few words for the character’s take on their surroundings.

    3. How does the world react to the character's actions? Seeing your character from the third person view is important not only for seeing the effects of a character’s action, but also helps to read the emotions of characters to whose thoughts you’re not privy, such as NPCs. We won’t go too much into NPCs here, but you can use the same technique as described in the first part to show their reaction to your character’s actions. How is your character making them feel, and how can you show that? You can also give some implied emotion to the furniture/objects around your character. The floor can squeak accusingly at guilty footsteps, branches yield to a hand, dishes shiver in response to a fist on a table. Setting a mood to the surroundings helps your character’s emotions to emanate from them and cause an effect elsewhere, making them more immersed and part of the setting their in.

    Emotion in a character is essential for giving your readers something to latch onto in the story. It can give you the power of guiding your readers to connect with your characters the way you want them to, whether to love or hate them. But giving a character emotion does not have to come at the expense of moving a story along. These tips are just some of the ways you can portray that emotion more effectively and efficiently.

    Happy Roleplaying!
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  2. Hmm...

    I do like to base a character on a certain aspect of my personality that I know quite well.
    So writing down emotions and feelings to certain situations is not difficult.

    What I do have a lot of trouble with is writing out the emotion without writing the emotion directly. So Instead of writing "angry" to write how the facial expression changes.
    The reason for me having difficulties with that is because A I am not a native english speaker even though my english has gotten to the point where it is better than my native language. B because I am terrible at describing something I see.
    Do you maybe know a method for me to practice this?
  3. @Desire

    The first thing you might do is to think of an experience that gives you a certain emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, excitement, fear, etc. Start with the most extreme emotions, as they give the greatest physical response. Then, take stock of your physical response. What do you do? Not how do you feel, but what does your body actually do? You can even just write it down as a list.

    For example, when I am angry, I:
    • purse my lips tightly, pulling in the corners of my mouth. It makes my mouth look small.
    • Sigh through my nose.
    • narrow my eyes.
    • breathe more quickly
    • clench my teeth
    • try not to wrinkle my nose. This makes my face twitch.
    • want to clench my fists. Instead I fidget, usually cracking my knuckles.
    Now, as you read this, even if I didn't tell you how I was feeling, you might guess. Notice for a couple of them, I elaborated slightly to explain how this might look to someone watching me.

    The next thing to do takes a bit longer. Read, read, read! But read with a purpose. See how other authors handle writing with emotion. A good one will have you almost feeling the physical response yourself, and it will clue you in to the emotion. They may occasionally drop the hint and name the emotion, and link the emotion to the feeling, but not every time. Make note of when the author does it, maybe even keep a side note of some of the words and phrases they use to describe it. This will expand your vocabulary in writing emotion, and as you practice with different phrases, you'll find your particular style.

    As for practicing descriptive writing in general, check out the exercises here in the institute, or the challenge forum. I've written a few challenges that require you to decribe a scene. It's called "Different Perspectives". Give some of them a try!

    Hope all of this helps!
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  4. First something less serious...
    When I am angry, I:
    -Speak with a very demanding tone
    -Get Depressed
    -Do not have a change in facial expression
    -Tense up a bit
    -A lot of my senses stronger looking for possible dangers
    -Want to cry in a dark corner where nobody can see me(feelings tears dwelling up that are held back)
    That sounds quite.... ehhh... what? D: Not exacly like being angry but like being very... secret and disliking about being angry >.>

    But now joke aside...
    Been looking into this via youtube, too. One suggestion was to simulate the emotion itself while looking into a mirror to see how the facial expression, body language changes.(which might be a better option for me as I do not notice my facial muscles very much)
    Still, your advice might be better than you know. It means I may want to look at my behavior/feeling pattern for when there is a stronger emotion in the moment to see how to deal with them better.(Not in the sense of ridding myself from the moment/influence as I believe that would be negative)
    And just like you said, the outside advice, my own head and you suggested to read... which might be difficult to achieve with me hating to use virtual books and books in english requiring to be ordered.
    Printing would be an option but that would leave me with a mess of paper which will result in eternal chaos in my room.