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Action/Adventure: April 27, 2011 Issue [#4362]

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 This week: The Emotional Side of Research
  Edited by: NickiD89
                             More Newsletters By This Editor  

Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

Like many of you, I've considered myself a writer my whole life. But in 2007, I shifted out of hobbyist mode, started writing for an audience, and embarked on the exciting journey towards publication. As I continue on that path and delve ever deeper into the craft, I feed an insatiable appetite for creative writing theory. I seek out how-to books and workshop experiences to augment and amplify whatever talent I possess. For those of you like me, here's a little theory to appease your hunger.

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Letter from the editor

As writers, we conduct research to gather information that will make our fiction more accurate, more believable, and more vivid. We understand that it's the little details that make a story come to life, so we learn what tools an archaeologist protagonist will use on a dig, for example, or what materials a bomb-making antagonist will need to build his weapon.

But all those rich, intriguing details could contribute to dull, one-dimensional stories if we haven't done any Emotional Research.

We've all felt joy, anger, sadness and fear, but we don't usually take notes when we're in the throes of these feelings. Emotional research is the active exploration of people's internal, emotive responses to stimuli in their environments. It is fascinating work that yields data you can apply to your fictional characters. Doing so raises your story's authenticity to levels difficult to achieve by simply drawing on memories of emotional times in your life.

You can research anything on the Internet these days, but no amount of web-surfing will teach you as much as direct, firsthand field research. It's the difference between looking at a picture of a Marshalltown trowel on an archaeology website and actually using one to scrape away topsoil, or between watching a YouTube video of someone building a pipe bomb and actually cranking the vise to pinch shut the end of a pipe. Direct experience in the field is the best way to investigate, and that goes the same for emotional research.

Recently I conducted emotional research for a story I was writing, in which a woman is chased in the woods. There's a state park near my house with miles of hiking trails. I hit the trails early one weekday morning, when I knew there would be few people in the park. When I'd been walking close to half an hour without passing another soul, I stopped and stood quietly in the woods. I invited in that creepy, 'Friday-the-13th' feeling you get when you're alone in a forest, and the wind sounds like moans, and every twig snapping is an axe-murderer about to jump you. I channeled my character; her story became my own; her apprehension crept into my heart. And in my mind I saw the man chasing me, closing in.

And I ran.

I sprinted down the path as fast as I could go. My speed created wind that howled in my ears, drowning out all sound. But then I couldn't hear if he was close. I felt vulnerable, and I ran even faster. Branches tore at my face and legs, and I tried to slap them out of my way. But that slowed me down and once I stumbled, so I quit trying. The uneven path conspired against me; I almost fell again. My heart slammed in my chest. I glanced over my shoulder; could have sworn I saw a flash of movement out the corner of my eye. I pumped my arms harder. The path climbed a rolling hill and my stride lengthened, toes dug into the floor of my shoes as I tried to maintain my pace. But I was tiring, slowing down. How long could I go on? How long would I last?

When I stopped running, I was completely out of breath. Adrenaline (and panic?) coursed through my veins. I walked a couple minutes, breathing deeply. When my heart rate slowed and I was back in control, I pulled out my journal and wrote down every detail of my experience.

There are so many ways to do emotional research on what I call 'writer's field trips.' Here are just a couple more ideas:

*Target* Ride a horse - How does it feel: to sit on the back of such a large, powerful animal? To be so far above the ground? To feel in control (or out of control) of where the horse goes? To ride when the horse runs?

*Target* Shoot a pistol at a gun range -- How does it feel to hold the gun? Are you afraid? Feel more confident? What do you feel when you pull the trigger? When the gun recoils? When you imagine the target is a real person?

*Target* Get your hair and make-up professionally done. Now go somewhere, like the mall, etc. - How different do you feel in a public place when you're this "dolled up?"


*Target* Put on clothes you don't usually wear, like an evening/ wedding gown, a sports team uniform, a tuxedo, six-inch platform shoes or cowboy boots - How do you feel different in these clothes/shoes compared to what you usually wear?

*Target* Do something you're afraid of - For example, if you're afraid of heights, go to the rooftop of a tall building. (Bring along a friend!) Move as close to the edge as you dare. How does it feel to face your fear? Take another step. Now how do you feel?

*Target* Fast for a day - Only drink water and eat bread crusts. How do you feel emotionally at 8 am? At noon? At 4 pm?

*Target* Visit a cultural location typically frequented by people of a different ethnicity or religion than you. For example, shop in a supermercado , walk through Chinatown, or attend service at a different church/mosque/temple - How does it feel to look/sound different from other people? Do you like to stand out, or do you wish you could fade into the crowd?

*Target* Spend a whole day without talking - What's it feel like when you can't express yourself with your voice? What about this experience frustrates you? What about this experience makes you feel grateful? How does it feel when different people react to your silence?

Every experience offers the opportunity to explore your own feelings and use those emotional reactions to bring vividness and authenticity to your fictional characters. Emotional research can be done anytime, anyplace. (Always consider your personal safety and never put yourself at undue risk!) And there's a wonderful side effect to this kind of research: It makes you feel more alive.

Where have you explored and what kind of research have you conducted for your story(ies)? Leave me a comment and share the experience(s)!

Thanks for reading!
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Editor's Picks

 No Amount of Love  (13+)
A woman and her child try to survive a terrorist attack.
#1070342 by W.D.Wilcox

 Scare Tactics V  (13+)
Chase loves his wife, but will he believe her?
#522312 by two of four

A Raft of Air  (E)
a short and thoroughly absurd venture.
#1706793 by Jay (*still* away for a while)

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1099280 by Not Available.

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1114048 by Not Available.

Awaiting Silence  (E)
I found myself in a cavern which wasn't on the map. (Editor's Pick)
#1690583 by BScholl

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1722614 by Not Available.

 Children of Targone Tenement  (13+)
SWAT raid an apartment of a serial rapist. Fist time using flashbacks.
#1283663 by Blaze

Augie  (ASR)
A dog, a dream, and a discovery.
#1711905 by Alexandra Jones

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1713312 by Not Available.

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Ask & Answer

Thank you so much for your comments from my debut WDC Newsletter on March 30th -- Action Drives Reactions! Here's what you had to say:

Winnie Kay : Thanks Nicki--I found your advice about writing action and reaction in sequential order very enlightening. I see from your example what a difference it makes to follow the order of things.

*Pencil* Thanks so much!

Power Unit : Thank you very much for this punch in the face. Not only is it important in our prose but also in our plots. Things don't just happen on their own. You've reminded me that the macro-level actions-reactions have to make sense too.

*Pencil* *Laugh* You're welcome!

Hyperiongate : Hard to believe this is your first newsletter. I found all of this well laid out and very helpful. I'm three chapters away from an intense action scene and your advice will be very helpful.


*Pencil* I'm so glad you found it helpful, Jim! Best of luck with your current project!

Mara ♣ McBain : I really enjoyed your debut NL! I've long understood that you knew more about the craft of writing than I, but this really drove it home. You brought up points that I've never considered and KNOW I've done incorrectly in the past. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us in an easy, fun way to understand! You have a new subscriber!

*Pencil* Thanks, Mara! *Blush* Many times, I've put my action/reaction scenes out of sequence too. This is the kind of information that starts out helping most during the revision process -- but as you go on, each new project tends to require less reordering. Love that!

Lesley Scott : I will try some more action and adventure with my short stories, which are all true. I haven't written a
lot of fiction, but will try.

*Pencil* I hope you give fiction a try! I know for me, I always grow most as a writer when I bust out of my comfort zone and try something new. Best of luck!

BBWOLF is Armor Monster : Life's an adventure. You just have to go and search.

*Pencil* I agree!

Alexandra Jones : Nicki, thank you for the brilliant newsletter! The information contained about proper sequencing of actions and reactions is logical, but I never thought about it until reading your NL. This is definitely something I will keep in mind when writing future action scenes. Looking forward to your April addition, ~Ali

*Pencil* Thank you so much!

Noelle ~ TY Anon! : Awesome first NL, Nicki! I can't wait to go through my port and re-read my work, because I'm POSITIVE I have written lines similar to the 'no no' example you've given. Lines written out of sequence cause readers to pause and have to read them again. When the action comes before the reaction (like your revised example shows), the scene flows naturally.

I am walking away from this NL a better scene writer--thank you so very much for your advice on where to place the objective actions and character's subjective reactions in terms of paragraph structure. I always struggle with when to start a new paragraph, but your suggestion to end one after the action and begin a new paragraph with the reaction makes perfect sense. Another way to give the read an easy, natural flow. So glad to have this information! *Thumbsup* *Smile*
*Heart* Noelle

*Pencil* Thanks, Noelle! Scenes definitely flow better and the tension is greater when we keep the sequence in the right order. It's such a simple thing, but makes such an incredible impact!

Brooke-Thanks Everyone! : Excellent first NL NickiD89 ! It was clear and easy to understand with great advice. *Thumbsup* I look forward to your next one. *Smile*

*Pencil* Thanks so much, Brooke!

Jace : Awesome topic, Nicki. I need to go back and see if my stories are ... uh, logical. *Smile* I'm reminded that writing is a lot like the great game of golf--you only have to keep 367 different thoughts in mind to recreate a good golf swing. *Laugh*

And thank you for featuring my story, "Little Ships.

*Pencil* *Laugh* So true, Jace! And isn't that occasional hole-in-one a beautiful thing!

Adriana Noir : Fantastical newsletter, Nicki! Reading this has actually taught me quite a bit. I think I have much revising to do! *Blush*

What a great editorial debut!

*Pencil* Thanks, Adriana! *Delight*

elanda2: It's also very important for the writer to have been in an actual fight, brawl, misunderstanding, or just getting sucker punched. Having the personal experience in a fight will also bring a sequence to life with ease and grace.

*Pencil* So true, Elanda! In fact, your comment ties in very nicely with my topic today, about the importance of conducting Emotional Research. Thanks!

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