Sunday, 13 April 2014

Day Thirteen: Creating Character Emotions #BYBin30

When writing a fiction novel, your portrayal of character emotions is a key part of the experience you create for your readers. You don't want your characters to come across as wooden and lacking in emotion. But how can you make sure you successfully convey your characters' emotions in a way that will enhance the story for your readers?

1. Show, don't tell. This is advice that is often used when it comes to writing a novel, but it is especially important when conveying character emotions. Don't tell your readers that Sally was tired. Show them the dark circles in her eyes and her constant yawning. Don't tell them that Jason is sad, show them the tears glistening in his eyes, his slumped shoulders and the trembling of his lips.

2. Use body language to convey character emotions. A person's body language can tell a story about what they are feeling, and this is never truer than when in a written story. It's another example of showing instead of telling. If your character is nervous, he might be pacing or fidgeting in some way. He might be sweating or jumpy. If your character is embarrassed, he might be blushing. He might be cringing or stammering. He might be looking down and avoiding eye contact. A happy person might have a smile on their face and a relaxed body. She might walk with a skip in her step.

3. Use internal physical symptoms to show what your character is experiencing. Your character might have a racing heart or quickened breathing. Or your character might have an upset stomach or loss of appetite. Maybe she feels her throat closing off or she's feeling a loss of energy. Maybe he's feeling an ache or pain in his heart or stomach or his mind is racing so much that he's experiencing insomnia. He could be feeling butterflies in his belly or his mouth has gone dry. All of these are internal signs felt by your characters that signal different emotions.

4. Use dialogue or the lack of it to suggest emotions. Sometimes the way a character says something can convey more emotion than through showing it in their body language, although a combination of the two usually works best. Instead of writing that your character thought Jason was an idiot, write: '"You're an idiot," Janice said.' Another way to use dialogue is by what your characters don't say. A poignant silence in response to a question can convey all sorts of different emotions, depending on the context. For example: 'Janice asked, "Do you still love me?" Jason looked away, silent.'

5. Use setting to convey character emotion. The way your character perceives the setting around him can suggest your character's mood or the emotions your character is experiencing. Your character might be experiencing a sunny day, but, while in a foul mood, all he notices are the clouds that linger. Or your character might be experiencing a grey and rainy day, but decide to go dance in the rain or be thinking about how nourishing the rain will be for the flowers in his garden.

There are numerous ways to portray your character's emotions without resorting to simply telling your readers what those emotions are. And if your readers are able to feel those emotions alongside your characters because you have engaged the five senses, used dialogue, body language and setting to help convey those emotions, your readers will be more invested in your story and in your characters.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant list Becky, thank you :) I need to remind myself of these very things some days.


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