Monday, January 17, 2011

Live, Learn, Write

Have you ever struggled with describing emotions?

Have you ever thought about why you might struggle?

Sometimes, I do.  But recently, I discovered how to overcome that.  Here's how it started.  I did something embarrassing!  This might be an everyday thing for some people, but it's not for me.  I don't really get embarrassed that often. 

Would you like to know what embarrassed me?  I'll tell you, but there's just one thing to keep in mind, though.  I say weird things.  I do.  I'm kind of weird.  Does it bother me?  Not usually.  I figure life's much more enjoyable and filled with laughter when it's a little weird.  It's so much better than being boring.  Any level of boring.

Anyway, while I was at a bridal shower, I said something weird.  And it was only embarrassing because of the way other's reacted.  I made a joke about how I knew the bride and the only reaction I got was a couple dozen wide eyes on overly confused faces.  Really.  It was the wrong crowd.  

More importantly is how I felt.  My face was on fire!  Instantly.  It sought escape throughout my body and left a sizzling wake in its path.  The heat spread from my head to the tip of my fingers and toes.  I tried to smooth it over quickly so they could move onto the next person.  Then I sank back and just hoped that I blended in the chair, wall, carpet, anything.  The worst part about the whole embarrassing situation was that the fire continued to rage throughout my body for the rest of the party.  My ears felt like glowing embers.  I couldn't get everyone's faces out of my head.  I thought about my comment over and over and over again.  For the next three hours!

So, the next time I write about a character who has been embarrassed, I will REALLY know how they felt.  And I love that.  

Live and learn.  

Of course, we might not need to live everything.  I'm not sure I want to go out and become a mass serial killer or cheat on my husband by flirting with another man.  I don't do those things.  I kind of live life on the good side and I'm very much in love with my husband.  

How can we learn then?  Watch movies, read books, and most importantly, learn from others.  I don't know a lot of vampires, fairies, smurfs, magicians, or human computers (although some people I know certainly come close), but just the other day I got to listen to a full report from a very good friend about her love life.  

I soaked in every detail and felt her excitement.  I put myself in her shoes and let the happiness and love permeate my whole body.  It was just like living it.  My emotions got all tied up in the story.  Now when I want to add a little flirty fresh look to a lovey scene, I can remember the giggle that just wouldn't stay down.  Or the chills that shook my shoulders and the excitement that hurt my cheeks from the smiles.  My adrenaline made me hungry for more and my heart thumped wildly just at the thought of them being together.  

Live it.  Learn it.  Write it.

What do you do when you're stuck writing an emotion?


  1. brilliant! omg. I've got to start doing this more--increasing my emotional vocabulary... When I'm stuck, sigh. I just wing it... Then go back and *fix* it in revisions~ ;p

  2. I usually try thinking of how other writers have described emotions in the books I've read, or I just try writing it as best I can, even if I don't know what that particular feeling is like.

  3. I definitely pull on personal experience to write emotions. And I get stuff from other books/movies/shows... I think I have my bases covered but I'm sure when other people see my work they'll tell me if I'm falling short.

  4. Saying-weird-and-often-inappropriate-things-high-five!! Every. Dang. Day. I say something that I get that look's kind of turning fun...

    I wondered about some of those things, how to write emotion I don't know. I just hope I got it right! I mean, I'd rather not be punched in the mouth to write about it! Or..I'll just refrain from writing about anyone getting punched in the mouth if not...

  5. Man, my face gets SUPER red when I'm embarrassed. And when I'm mad...and sad... Pretty much all the time.

    Maybe that's why a lot of our characters (especially our main characters) are based on ourselves- because we've most likely felt that emotion before.

  6. How wise you are to realize that someone sharing their experiences with you is ahelp to you both AND to your writing.
    reat post.

  7. I love the idea of soaking up other's emotions. Maybe I'll take it a step further and journal about it so I can remember the feelings.

    I can also relate to your story. I sympathize with your awkward moment. This happens to me all the time. I turn red and spend the rest of the time being sick to my stomach.

  8. Well, unless one has lived a little bit of life, which means suffered embarrassments, even grief, it is difficult to write with feeling. WHich is why lived reality is important.

    I do this through method-acting (strictly at home when I'm alone, or in my head, lol), even for my strangest characters, and it works.


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