February 11th, 2009

columbines

Honest emotion in writing...

After spending all day yesterday in panic mode (complete with pounding heart and shaking legs), once I realized I'd been terrified for nothing (dentist worries), I started thinking about emotions. You hear the phrase 'fighting with fear' -- that's exactly where I was. I spent the day trying to get control of my fear, trying to deal with it and not supress it (because I didn't want a migraine), and trying to understand what drove it.

For anyone with imagination, it doesn't take much to fuel fear. A little toothache turned into possible death (not kidding -- I have a truly overactive imagination), and I was a mess considering the possibility of leaving my kiddos motherless (yeah, you can laugh -- I am now too).

But thinking about writing, how do I get something like that on the page? Clearly it's easy to 'tell' it. But showing fear is something else, because fear -- and any strong emotion -- overrides everything else. A person doesn't think clearly; their actions are guided by a feeling which may or may not be true. If I'm writing in first person, if I become that character, then I can't see outside the emotion. It creates a number of unreliable impressions and interactions...which is where the other characters come to play.

melissa_writing talked about using multiple POVs the other day. I think this is part of why I'm drifting more and more in that direction. For some people (not me), becoming a character seems instinctive. They can put that character down on paper so strongly that the person is real to the reader -- we (as readers) experience all their emotions and circumstances right along with them.

I'm not as strong in this area. I tend to distance myself from the MC, even as I write. Of course, I tend to distance myself from any situation or emotion which threatens to overwhelm me in person, as well -- it's just part of my makeup. If I try to keep myself only in the MC's shoes, try to feel and see only what she feels -- my other characters become skewed. I think I need the other POVs (at least one, it seems), to clarify things and add depth and perspective.

I suppose I could also try writing in 3rd POV, but although I can do that for my secondary POVs, for some reason, my MC always comes out in 1st...hm.

What about you? How do you get emotions across without drowning in them?