Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing 101: If It Makes You Happy...

Have you ever killed a character? Did you cry and sob at your keyboard while writing the scene? Have you ever written a break-up? Did you feel anger and pain and jealousy when the lost love interest turned up with a new love interest of their own? If you're not feeling all these things while you're writing, then I'm not feeling what you're writing. You feel me? 

How Does That Make You Feel?

The best books are the ones that make us laugh and cry. The books that make you feel something are the ones that stick with you. They become special memories, personal stories. I'll never forget the emotional wreck I became while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (don't judge me). There's a line toward the end of the book, where Professor McGonagall takes control of Hogwarts and tells the students they can stay and fight if they want to. 

I burst into tears. In the middle of a silent room, there's me sobbing. I started to cry so hard, I had to close the book for a few minutes just to gather myself. I loved that book so much, I'm not even embarrassed to share that story. That's a good book. And I guarantee you, J. K. Rowling started to cry and slobber at some point while she was writing the first draft of that book -- stiff British upper lip notwithstanding. 

Because, while I don't know the woman personally, I'm pretty sure she knows the secret of writing great emotional scenes. And here's what it is: you have to feel what the characters feel. 

If you're a writer, it's necessary to go a little crazy sometimes. While you're writing, when you're in that special space, you have to become your characters. You're no longer Self Pubbed, hard-working indie author. You're now your main character, living in that world and breathing that air and going through everything the main character is experiencing. 

And if you don't cry when something happens, or laugh at a scene that's meant to be amusing, you have to rewrite it. Get deeper into the character, try it again and see what happens. When your emotions are engaged, your writing is going to be a lot more realistic. That's the kind of stuff that's going to make me burst into tears at odd intervals in the middle of a silent room. And that's the kind of stuff you want.

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  1. Oh, I don't know. I've read books by Agatha Christie which fully engaged me but weren't at all emotional.
    The great novels (Tolstoy etc) are a combination of intelligence and emotion. The ambitious novelist should strive for both. I like a work that stimulates my heart, but also my brain.
    Have a great day.

  2. Great point, Your Majesty. Books that are intellectually stimulating can be just as powerful as the emotional works.

  3. I've certainly written scenes like that. When I was writing "King's Champion", I had just finished a scene where the main character, stressed out from battle and the loss of many of her friends just sat down crying, and I couldn't help but sit and cry with her.