Thursday, August 27, 2009

Emotional Readers

I've been watching the Little League World Series. I always tune in every year and watch a few innings here or there. The play isn't great, but it's fun to watch. The thing that sticks with me, though, is the end of the games.

The kids jumping up and down, excited to win.

And, of course, the kids on the losing side crying.

Now the cynic in me says these kids have watched enough TV to know how to get on a SportsCenter highlight. But my heart says most of these emotions are true. They feel right.

And, to me, that's the key part in writing a novel. Getting to the true emotions of the characters.

You can't write how you think they're going to feel. You can't have someone crying just because they SHOULD cry in that situation. A good reader isn't going to buy that. It's going to take them right out of the book.

No, you have to figure who you character really is. And once you figure that out, you can figure out how he or she is going to react in certain situations.

And if you bear down to a real emotion, if you get your reader to believe that's how your character is really going to react, it's going to make a story even stronger.

You can write a sad story and people don't have to cry, if that's who the characters are. You can write a happy story without having the characters jump up and down.

And, if you do it right, you might get your reader to cry.

Or jump up and down.


Scott D. Parker said...

So the biggest question for me is this: how do you do that? How do you figure out who your character is? Is it simply you invent a backstory and let him move forward? Or can you write a series of short stories or vignettes and figure it out that way.

I agree with you, BTW, about the truth of the emotions on the kids' faces. Watching Little League, even the big-time LL on ESPN, shows us jaded adults the the joy of pure, unadulterated (heh) emotion.

John McFetridge said...

Everyone finds their own way, I guess, but for me I have to actually write it to figure it out. Short stories, vignettes, whatever. Some backstory, sure, but don't be a slave to it.

Jay Stringer said...

I try and get to the honesty by defining as little about the character as I can up front. I don't do much physical description and, on first draft, little to no backstory unless it's vital.

Then somewhere along the way, between the dialogue and the characters actions, they start to tell me who they are, and then they start dictating the plot.