An exercise for understanding emotions in ourselves and in the characters we create.
| Emotions dictate a person’s ability to adapt to the challenges of life and the requirements of a society. They affect not only to the way people deal with others but also their inner sense of well-being.
Just like in real life, a writer’s characters may imitate the way emotions pop up and evolve. What is the best route, then, to be able to see deeply into an emotion?
I think the search begins with the writer herself or himself. If we understand ourselves well and in detail, we may be able to project that understanding into the characters we create, be it they may be very different from us.
Perceiving the full-view of oneself is an act of daring, especially if you are truthful, but you don’t have to advertise the results of this exercise. It is actually advisable to do it in private, possibly by writing inside a locked notebook, especially if you are working on yourself.
This exercise you may also do for a character, but it is advisable that you explore every emotion and event that affected you first.
1. Name the feeling or emotion, first its general name, then the name you give to it.
For example: annoyance skunk’s tail.
2. The event. Date it. What happened that made you feel this certain way and during which stage in your life? Tell the event in detail, including the tiniest components of it.
3. Elaborate on the emotion. What physical or mental immediate effects did it have on you? Both during the event and then right after. Note down everything in detail such as wanting to throw something at a wall, having a new pain somewhere in your body, or feeling happy and kissing everyone in your family for no reason at all, etc.
4. Resulting Belief: Did this event or emotion leave you with a belief or suspicion? Maybe she doesn’t like me. He’s jealous of my success or an acquired thing. I must do better. I must be loved. If I give in more, he’ll love me.
5. Consequence(s) of this experience.
For example, delight in being praised or a sad irritable mood or feelings of rejection. How long does (or did) this consequence last? Just remember that even in our old age, we still feel the consequences of our childhood events and emotions. It is, therefore, important to go as far back as we can, so we can see if the final emotion is one that is layered and piled on.
My hope is that this exercise may lead you to understand yourself better or if not, it may help you with the creation of your characters.
Best of Luck with your efforts!