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?