Making Emotions Real

“Sometimes, the saddest parts aren’t where the character is crying. Sometimes, the saddest parts come from when they’re trying not to cry.”

This quote has changed the way I write.

I realized, after reading it fifteen times and pondering on it for a long while, that whoever came up with this is absolutely correct.

I mean, come on! Have you ever been reading a book, going along and enjoying it, and then you realize there’s this one character who is constantly bawling? (Guilty as charged, I have so yelled at a character for crying too much before.)

If you take a minute to look at real people, you’ll find that (more often than not) they don’t want other people to see them cry. And, therefore, they hold back the tears and set up their “I’m okay” facade. Just watch people around you every once in a while.

We’ve talked about how people have “tells” before. Well, people have what I call “emotion tells”. Like a tick that could be a quivering chin if they let it. Some people’s noses turn red when they’re trying not to cry. (I know a few.)

People are emotional by nature, but many also have a pride issue. For some reason, society has told us that crying make you look weak, and therefore most people don’t want to give in to their natural emotions. Because they think it will make them look weak.

Recently, I was writing a story where a character blames herself for stuff that keeps happening to both her and other people. Because of issues in her past, she also has abandonment issues.

Sounds like it could go really mushy really fast, with lots of tears and “don’t goes”, right?

Wrong.

I’m telling you, I actually cried writing her most recent scene. A scene in which someone she loves says they’re leaving. How did she handle it? Not with begging.

She stoicly, listlessly stood there and listened to him tell her he was leaving. She even let him yell at her. All the while, she watched the floor and distracted herself so she didn’t cry. Because she wanted to. Badly. He left, she shut herself in her room. Then, and only then, did she allow herself to let go and let it all out.

And you know what? Because she had been holding it in, and the tension had been building around it, it made the entire scene that much more powerful. That much more moving. Enough to move a reader (and writer) to tears over this character.

Do you want to hear a reader say, “Oh my gosh, I loved your book so much! It made me cry!”? Then maybe you should consider employing the method of hold it in until it has to get out.

If people are all fundamentally similar, doesn’t that mean your characters wouldn’t want to gush all over other characters? If your characters are real, why would they spill their guts with no reasonable motivation to do so?

Ponder that this week.

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I wanna hear about the first book that EVER made you cry. Or why you haven’t ever cried at a book. Ready? Set. GO!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

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