This week: Creating the Emotional ImpactEdited by: Joy
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“I am broken the way most writers are, stories leaking through the cracks.”
“We write, not because we claim to know more than others, but perhaps because we want to know more than others. Writers are explorers”
Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity
“If you don't want anyone to know anything about you, don't write anything.”
“Personal accounts flow from the heart and tend to be the most difficult to write. It's nearly impossible to remove the emotional undertones, and it takes so much courage to open those pages to everyone else.”
Javier A. Robayo
“Stories are the way we see ourselves.”
Sandra Marinella, The Story You Need to Tell
Hello, I am Joy , this week's drama editor. This issue is about searching deeply into ourselves so our stories can create an emotional impact on the readers.
Thank you for reading our newsletters and for supplying the editors with feedback and encouragement.
Please, note that there are no rules in writing, but there are methods that work for most of us most of the time.
The ideas and suggestions in my articles and editorials have to do with those methods. You are always free to find your own way and alter the methods to your liking.
Welcome to the Drama newsletter
Have you ever made a list of the emotions, past and present, that you have ever felt? It is a good exercise ▼ , scary maybe; however, it may help your writing greatly especially if you describe the instances and the surrounding stories of those emotions. Why?
It is because when you get in full touch with yourself, you’ll understand other people much better, especially your made-up characters. Having said that and promoted the idea behind this exercise, I have to admit that looking at the full-view of oneself is an act of daring, especially if you are truthful.
I have to admit such an exercise is frightening because we never know what we are digging into. When the idea of blogging first surfaced and we started our blogs here, the group I belonged with began writing from prompts. At first, some of those prompts annoyed me. Why do people want to probe into my private life? I mused. Then, I got the hang of it: It had to do with writing, with storytelling, with characterization, with drama.
The teaser is, nowadays I am the one sending out such prompts every once in a while. Guess what? Some of those prompts go unanswered, and I thoroughly understand why.
Yet, I am not saying you write in your blog or journal open to the public every single issue in your life, but you might want to do such exercises in a private notebook because it is a very good idea to look deeply into ourselves to grasp what lurks inside the human psyche. This way we’ll stay away from cliché emotions and we’ll offer the readers true and unique ones.
Surely, this doesn’t mean that you the writer has to explain in detail every emotion in a character, but if you understand it well, you’ll explore and find just the right word or phrase or two to show it within its context.
In my humble experience, I find that thinking about and showing emotion works best within the scenes, as each scene has a beat, and in each beat or in between beats, the strength or the clash of those emotions add to the overall story. When a character feels an emotion, joy or sadness, the reader will feel it, too, provided that the reader relates strongly to the character in some way.
Then, to create emotion in the reader, you don’t have to write about over-the-top events, death-defying acts, or great sacrifices. Just a normal everyday scene can evoke strong emotions in the reader if the writer understands that emotion thoroughly.
As an example, let’s look at a simple scene from Donna Tart’s Goldfinch. In this scene, before going to live with his father after his mother’s death, the teen protagonist is having dinner with a man who befriends him.
“I mean, your mother---” He paused delicately. “It’ll be a fresh start.”
I studied my plate. He’d made lamb curry, with a lemon-colored sauce that tasted more French than Indian.
“You’re not afraid, are you?”
I glanced up. “Afraid of what?”
“Of going to live with him.”
I thought about it. gazing off into the shadows behind his head. “No,” I said. “Not really.” For whatever reason, since his return my dad seemed looser, more relaxed. I couldn’t attribute it to the fact that he’d stopped drinking, since normally when my dad was on the wagon, he grew silent and visibly swollen with misery so prone to snap that I took good care to stay an arm’s reach away.
“Have you told anyone else what you told me?”
In embarrassment, I put my head down and took a bite of the curry. It was actually pretty good once you got used to the fact it wasn’t curry.
“I don’t think he’s drinking anymore,” I said, in the silence that followed. “If that’s what you mean? He seemed better. So…” Awkwardly, I trailed away. “Yeah.”
Did you feel the teen’s hesitancy and apprehension, and the way he’s psyching himself to accept his new situation while denying his feelings outwardly? Did his handling of his feelings make you curious about the rest of his story? This is what happens to our craft when we learn to look deeply into ourselves and then into other people.
Whether you have a happy, tragic, or bittersweet story with any kind of an ending, it is always the way to go by taking the extra time to master your understanding of the human psyche, so your text can deliver your art on all levels.
Until next time!
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This Issue's Tip: Since I mentioned scene beats in the editorial, here is what a scene-beat is. "A scene beat is the smallest unit of dramatic structure, which is made up of a new thought, an action, a reaction, and an emotion." It is not the same "beat" as in stage or film that indicates a pause. Beats are dictated by the will and the art of the writer. It is up to us writers to make the best use of them. I like designing a scene first, then looking it over for beats and maybe adding beats to it.
Feedback for "Finding Catchy Ideas in Dull Stories"
I can't count the number of times my wife and I have been watching a TV show and exclaimed in frustration, "They're wasting a brilliant idea! We could do it so much better."
Neither of us has actually pinched an idea like that yet but your editorial makes me think that it might just be allowable to do so...
Thanks for the input. Ideas are not copyrighted. So you can go ahead and use them. In fact, most authors do exactly that.
Thank you for including my story in the Editor’s Pick. Cheers Sue
You're very welcome, Sue. Do keep writing your winning stories.
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