This week: Character Emotional DevelopmentEdited by: Lonewolf
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Character Emotional Development is how an author brings a character to life on the page or screen. Character Development of the protagonist is often one of the most neglected elements. People read books 70% for the characters. We love slipping out of our own lives and inside characters' lives. The Character Emotional Development plot line allows us to do that.
The most powerful way to reach an audience is through the characters' emotions. For only when we connect with the characters on an emotional level, does the interaction become deep and meaningful. Well-written scenes that include characters' emotions allow the audience to viscerally take part in the story and bond with the characters.
It is no small feat to create unique characters from scratch and make them believable and likeable. To hold a reader's interest for the duration of the project they must embody enough depth and complexity, have just the right voice, and be three-dimensional, vibrant characters. Though some audience members rather enjoy a more distanced, intellectual challenge, most want to engage with characters in books on an emotional level, too.
Often writers get stuck by staying in the character's head and "telling" what the character thinks. An emotion, on the other hand, has a strong physical component and is primarily felt in the body. The writer is able to "show" emotions through how the character relates or reacts to conflict.
Most of us in real life are capable of handling ourselves when things are going well or working in our favor. Throw in some sort of disaster, conflict, roadblock and we find out who we truly are. This same principle applies in stories. Readers alike want to participate in dramatic stories to learn how characters respond emotionally when things turn messy, challenging, and stressful, when all is lost.
Storytelling involves more than lining up the action pieces, arranging them in a logical order and then drawing conclusions. Yes, dramatic action pulls readers to the edge of their seats. And yes, conflict, tension, suspense and curiosity hook readers. Yet, no matter how exciting the action, the character's emotional reactions and emotional development provide fascination. Any presentation with a strong human element increases the chances of audience identification.
Every story sends a character on a journey that ends up causing the character to undergo an inner transformation. This ultimate character transformation is shown step-by-step through their Character Emotional Development. Emotional development is cumulative, based on all of the scenes over time, and is long-term and trans-formative.
Emotional development implies permanent growth, long-term change or transformation in the character in reaction to the dramatic action scene-by-scene throughout the overall story. The transformation the character undergoes takes place step-by-step from the beginning and spans throughout the entire story. If conflict, tension and suspense drive the reader to turn the page, or send them to the edge of their seat, the characters' emotional development inspires and connects them to the story.
Character Emotional Development operates under the assumption that when a character is transformed by the dramatic action over time the story means something or, in other words, is thematically significant.
Just as the dramatic action affects the overall emotional development, the action also affects your character's emotional state in the scene. In other words, the character's mood changes within a scene in reaction to what is said or done in that specific scene. Characters can jump from one emotion to another within a particular scene, depending on the drama, but the character's emotion must remain consistent from one scene to the next scene.
The dramatic action that takes place in each particular scene causes an emotional effect(s) on the character. The emotional reaction(s) the character experiences or emotional change(s) the character undergoes within a specific scene is often fleeting and temporary. Emotional Change symbolizes the character's emotional reactions within the scene.
1. Within each scene is a response to the dramatic action of that particular scene itself.
Using Rick Bragg's memoir "Ava's Man" as an example, Charlie, the grandfather of our protagonist, starts a scene angry that Jerry hurt his friend, Hootie, "just for the sport of it." The more he thinks about "how this man had come to his house, bringing the threat of violence to where his wife and children lived," the angrier and more determined Charlie becomes.
Anger consumes Charlie. When Jerry says he is coming inside the house, Charlie becomes furious (an emotional change in intensity within that particular scene itself).
2. Following each turning point or setback scene ("cause"), the character experiences an emotional reaction ("effect") or shows an emotional response (which is also an "effect")
Based on the possibility of an attack ("cause") in the previous scene, the next scene begins when Charlie shows his emotional response ("effect"):
"Then Charlie did one of the bravest things I have ever heard of, a thing his children swear to. He opened the door and stepped outside to meet his enemy empty-handed, and just started walking."
3. Overall emotional developmental transformation.
Not all characters undergo a transformation, but by the nature of what a protagonist embodies, that character must go through an emotional development transformation.
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It has been an honor to be your Newsletter Editor this week. I hope what I have brought to you today has been of some help.
Excerpt: "Get off me!!! HELP!! HELP!!" Ivy screamed.
Then she quietly begged.. "Please don't hurt me, I'll go back with you,
I'll stay, just put the knife away, don't stab me again, please, please, I
won't tell anyone." Tears poured from her face and sobs shook her whole body to
the core. She was freezing cold and begging for her life.
Excerpt: Over the summer no one else found out. By August she was showing but only Aaron and Patrick had seen it. Grace covered it up as much as possible. She rarely got to see her friends because of work and her family members were always working when she was off.
So no one caught on, even through all the weird cravings. They shrugged it off as normal
Excerpt: "Oh, David! When will you learn that when a mother hears her only child got hurt and is in the hospital, that she doesn't care what the doctors or nurses say.
That she's going to go see them." Mrs. Mervyn laughed aloud. Prompting the nurse
from down the hall to ask her to kindly shut the door, as other patients were sleeping.
Excerpt: The man woke a few hours later. He did not open his eyes. He didn't want to. He didn't know if he had just had another dream, or if this time it had actually happened. He felt so incredibly empty. He needed to find his soul mate soon, or his depression would kill him. He sighed. Then, to his surprise, the girl who lay beside him turned in her sleep, and still asleep, put her arm around him. A tear ran down his cheek as he turned to hold her, kiss her, and then fall asleep again.
Vain it would be to consider that I could realize my happiness in your absence.
Eternal it will always be that my love for you will shine bright as heaven.
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