Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to get in emotion -- writer's tip

One of this quarter's well-received titles.

Ever since his mother died, David Sinclair, a tenth grader, can’t seem to finish anything he starts. After his alcoholic father gripes about all the money he’s blown on Karate lessons, tennis lessons, and several other things for his son that came to nothing, David decides to try out for the Heather Heights High School football team as a placekicker. Their star player, Glenn Samson, believes nothing matters but football. David has always admired Glenn and starts thinking the same way. Although he’s never kicked a football in his life, he sticks with it—lifting an old abandoned telephone pole lying on the ground on the huge lot behind his house over and over to gain strength, and practicing until his foot can boot the ball fifty yards. But being a football hero costs a precious price, threatening to ruin his football career before it even gets started. Can David recover from that cost? And will the lessons learned eventually carry him to a much sweeter victory that takes him beyond football?

Question:  My writer's group said my  writing is "too flat" and "needed more feeling" then when I did a rewrite with more description of how people were feeling, they said it "still just talked about the feelings..."  Any ideas?

Answer:   The best advice I can give is not to describe what other people (your characters) feel, but to try to get inside those feelings yourself...

When you need to give a character a strong emotion, try to find a moment in your own past when you felt that emotion. Once I needed to find shock and horror for a character in a story who was being attacked by a corpse. Needless to say, I had never been attacked by a corpse, but...

To do that I remembered a day when I'd taken clothes in off the line, folding them into the basket as I went. When I started to put them away, a snake crawled out from between the towels and landed between me and the door. I am terrified of snakes. I took all the sick, palpitating, screaming horror I felt when I saw the snake and gave those emotions to the my character. Her palms sweat, her hands shook, the room seemed to come and go. And I used what I had felt toward that snake, to understand how she might feel when she walked into her own horrifying situation.

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