Feelings are hard, in both reality and writing. This isn’t a ground-breaking concept, but stay with me.
Characterization is heavily rooted in emotion. Physical traits and personal history can help mold a vivid depiction for a reader, but what really tells an audience about a story’s protagonist and counterparts is how individuals react to situations. Those reactions are portrayed through emotion.
See? I have a point.
Characterization is only one aspect of what makes emotional reaction so key to the creation of a good story. If you ask someone, “what makes a good book?” how the book made them feel is probably going to be embedded in the response you receive. In order to achieve this connection, the feelings of a novel’s cast need to transfer from paper to the reader. When your protagonist cries, readers need to feel pain. When your antagonist triumphs, readers should have an overwhelming desire to punch the jerk in the face (or make out with said person, depending on your writing style. I lean toward the latter).
All this mumbo-jumbo above is great to know, but how do you achieve it? That’s a question with a mile long answer. There are books written on the subject (check out a few here.) I’ve read one or two, but when it comes time to write I’m not going to dig out my copy of Emotion, Tension & Conflict and look up the best way to convey “She felt sad”.
Warning: “She felt sad” is the worst route to take. Avoid at all costs. Please.
This leads me to the purpose of this post. I have a confession. I’m a cheater.
I don’t take the time to dive into another book while writing my own. I use cheat sheets. These sites below help pinpoint frequent mishaps writers make, and help spark ideas.
This is a fantastic list of emotional actions. One of the best lists I’ve found.
Spoiler alert! This one focuses on the infuriating side of things! Still, a great resource for when your character’s are feeling furious.
(I’ll just stick it here to make things simple.)
Because you can only use “She grinned mischievously” so many times. Or not at all. In fact, don’t use it, use this list instead.
This article does an incredible job of demonstrating how to put all of the above charts and tips to use. Show versus tell in reality! Woohoo!
I hope these links help you as much as they’ve helped me. Feel free to other links in the comments below. In fact, I encourage it. Thanks for sticking with me through this surprisingly long post (it’s like I’m a writer or something).
Until next time,