Monday, June 15, 2015


Every time we define a character and set it on a page, we delve into our emotional banks.  When we withdraw emotions and life experiences from that bank and that never leaves us unaffected.  A good example of that is if we’ve just written a heavy emotional scene, we’re wiped. 

Anything we create as an artist, musician, or writer is pulled from our emotional banks.

An artist pulls the emotions from their own psyche and as they do they bring into play their sense of wonder about life, curiosity about how and why things work. This is why a good piece of music, object of art, and words can elicit a strong emotional response. To create that response in others an artist first has to reach inside. And to do that effectively, the creator is also brushed with those same emotions as they create.

Writing/journaling has been used as a tool for years to help client/patients to identify problems.  The thought being, when you write about a situation or event your emotions will spill over into what you’re writing and help see a problem more clearly. Or at least have a starting point to repair or modify what’s troubling you.

Many traumatic things are totally or partially forgotten and this is the mind’s defense mechanism. It protects. Even when forgotten the emotional impact hasn’t been removed, only hidden. Emotions are stored differently than memories and have a way of manifesting themselves, or spilling over, into our dreams and other areas of life. By writing down those emotions, we can, theoretically, recall missing parts and go about fixing it. 

I think when we write a story we also pull from a pool of forgotten emotions and half forgotten situations. All those emotional feelings—the joys, sadness, anger, fear, feeling helpless, and falling in love—are stored within our sub-conscious, or our emotional banks.

In my writing, I tend to hit both ends of the emotional spectrum. I like my characters to have layers. What has happened to them in their past is going to affect how they react now to life’s present situations. Of course parts of my own life experiences are used. I’m an introspective person by nature, and an observer. I have to take care in my writing not to overburden my readers with too much introspection/retrospection.  I have to allow them to draw their own conclusions based on their life experiences.  Sometimes I write it all out, then go back and remove all the whys (back-story and explanations) and dribble out just enough to give the reader a point of reference. I try to leave the actions and reactions of the characters to define the situation.

I don’t always succeed, and I’m always struggling with that, but it’s a work in progress. I feel great when I’ve drawn good characters true to life and they move from two dimensional idea to feeling like a real person.

What helps you create realistic emotions in your characters? 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have to really work at it, both because I haven't had a lot of trauma in my life and because I'm a guy. It will take several passes through a manuscript to get the emotions on the page.
With music, it's easier though.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I sometimes struggle with character development--not because I haven't gone through both very happy and very traumatic times. But I agree that it helps to draw on these experiences.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like putting my characters in position where they have to examine their emotions. Sometimes I have trouble writing those scenes because I want to get it just right.

shelly said...

I think you're right, I know I pull out past emotions over things from the past. Its therapy in a way.

Good post!

Yolanda Renee said...

It's a fine line, but each creation is a big part of who we are. I do use my experiences in a variety of ways, as I use the experiences of others. We take, reformat, and create!

Jo said...

I'm very impressed with those two photos. Particularly what appears to be a dragon in the background of the dancer.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

It often takes me several tries to hit that emotional reaction just right, whereas in other scenes, it comes together on the first try. (Not that a rough draft doesn't need smoothing over, but sometimes the emotional high point comes out just the way it needs to be.)

If I think about it, the scenes that come out with the correct emotional timber on the first try are always ones that I've been rehearsing in my mind, over and over, as I approach them from earlier in the story. By the time it comes to write them, I have seen them in my mind so many times, they have to be right!

Kat Sheridan said...

I love writing intensely emotional scenes. A friend once wisely advised to dig deep into the places that hurt, because sometimes that's where your book lies. It's never easy, but it's cathartic. That goes for "happy" emotional scenes as well. As the saying goes, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. Writers are writers because they are willing to go to the tough places and allow readers to vicariously experience those emotions.