Monday, December 11, 2006

Psych 101 for writers, readers, and characters

  1. Q#5 (halfway thru the course!): How does emotion play a part in writing fiction, short, long or otherwise?
  2. Answer: Emotion is passion and if fiction is about anything it is about the passions. All good fiction involves emotion and emotional responses. Good dialogue is about emoting and responding, and the best dialogue shows great passion, which is at the core of story conflict. Bodily responses, facial responses have all to do with 'giving up clues' to character and some secret the character is hiding. When your main character is depressed, for instance, your entire purpose for a scene might well be to depict a single overwhelming emotion, as when Inspector Alastair Ransom is brought to his knees in my City for Ransom, literally so by what a killer has done to him. Fear, anger, rage, suicidal thoughts and their opposite emotions make our characters real people with whom we can relate, and with whom our readers can relate. A great story is remembered for the depth of the emotions brought to bear by the circumstances and the characters that fit said plot. A character's emotions might be reflected, refracted, mirrored, twisted, bolstered, or destroyed within a given storyline. Conversely, they might be used to demonstrate how a character fits a setting or is in antagonism with that setting given his or her passions (think Wuthering Heights here). Characters rise and fall and orbit about one another and when their orbits collide, passions collide, and when that happens conflict and story are in simpatico with character and the entire symphony of emotions plays out so well. Give a thought to all the major characters that live on in your mind long, long after you have read of them and recall how utterably passionate they were about winning their goals within that story. From Gone with The Wind to a favorite mystery novel this is true. Emotion is the bedrock of great stories.

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