Have you ever read a passage and felt the breath of life, then was too speechless to describe it? That’s writing at its best. The method for creating such a moment comes from the use of emotions. Emotions are one of the single most important, touching, impressive, and non-intrusive writing tools. It is often not recognized as a concrete tool, but as a feeling, a stirring, a capturing that catches the reader up in the fictive state.
My aim is to take the mystery out of it. Break it down and make it easy for you. I want to shorten the learning curve for conquering this bestseller-kind-of writing. When you set your scene do not describe it separate from the protagonist’s thoughts, feeling, observations, analyses. If we know how the protagonist feels about the description, the situation, we’ll experience it also. Feelings make us remember a character, a story, a plot long after the last page is closed. Good emotional impact resonates because you have felt what the character felt. On the other hand, descriptions apart from your character’s feelings and observations are impersonal and cold, no matter how detailed and colorful they are. In other words, find smooth ways to integrate your character’s feelings into the description. Here are three examples:
THE MAYOR’S WIFE by Martha Tucker – Indigo is in the hospital after she finds out her husband is dead. “Life, death, acceptance, rejection, ability to feel it and inability to bear it. She turned her face to the cool white wall and her body curled into a fetal position. She pleaded with God to return her to the state of unconsciousness. Devastation only comes to those who are conscious.
Something twisted her heart like a wringer. She turned back to the doctor to face what he had to say, not sure that this moment wasn’t still a dream. When he answered, her throat hurled a howl.
The scream took her mind to a place that didn’t hurt so much as she felt the sting of a nurse’s needle.
This is the description that could have been written separately from her EMOTIONS. Just a straight description of her in the hospital room. Indigo lay in the cool white bed. Everything around her was white. She turned to the doctor and stared, waiting for him to answer. He spoke in a deep voice and told her that her husband didn’t make it. She screamed aloud.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS by T.H. Moore. In reaction to a ruckus his mother and father are having: Jalen balled his body in his arms and tightened his blanket, hoping she would just stop talking. What is she doing? Jalen sprang up and glared at the closed door – A blood-curdling scream jerked him out of bed like he’d been stung by a bee. His feet barely touched the carpet as he tore down the stairs. He froze at the sight.
Moore could have just described the darkroom, the warm blanket, and the yelling voice that stole in under the door.
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here is how the master did it, and it has lasted well over 50 years-“Now it was a cool night, with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye, Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees-he could climb to it, if he climbed it alone, and once there, he could suck the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl and forever wed his unutterable vision to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch, she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
Scott Fitzgerald interpreted his setting, the feelings of his young manhood, of the night, the life of it, the forever endearing kiss.
Now, it’s your turn to describe your favorite scene and lace it with emotions. If you’re going to be a bestseller-kind-of author, then you need to practice writing with emotions.
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Martha “Marti” Tucker