Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Emotion for Impact

I've read numerous times how showing the emotion of a character can often have a much greater impact than an outright telling dialog. I've often struggled to remember good examples of this, but now I won't have to.

In the April 2007 edition of The Writer magazine (US) there are two FANTASTIC examples of before & after writing relating to showing more emotion in your writing. Unfortunately I can't reprint it here due to copyright issues but I'll give you the detail for you to check it out for yourself.

The first is actually an example of clarifying a Turning Point, but I think it also doubles as a great example of emotion v's dialog. It's the Before and After on page 27

The second is an actual example pitched directly at emotion and is another excellent example of how to get into the head of a character instead of listening to them talk. It's the Before and After on page 46.

So, how about an example from me? I'll give it a go:

*******************
Before
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.
Jill fidgeted, "I don't know. Looks like it might rain."
"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."
Jill couldn't look him in the eyes, "Well it might, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."
"Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me," Jack said before storming off.
*******************

Ok, that is some lousy dialogue, but what I am trying to go for there is showing how Jill doesn't want to go anywhere with Jack. I could re-write it with more dialogue, try to get across my point in words, maybe they could have an argument. Or I could try again, with the same amount of dialogue, but this time with more feeling and see which one has greater impact to the reader:

*******************
After
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.

Jill felt a lurch in her stomach. Jack was always asking her to go places with him, but he creeps her out so much. She's never felt comfortable around him and his incessant gaze is just too intense.

Looking down she played with a thread at the hem of her shirt and said, "I don't know, it looks like it might rain." Out of the corner of her eye she could see his hands open and close by his sides, clenching into fists.

"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."

She kept her head down knowing that if she looked at Jack he would see the real truth in her eyes. Her pulse quickened with fear. What would he do if he realised she wasn't interested in him, in that way? "Well it could rain, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."

She winced, immediately knowing it for the lame excuse it was. But what could she do? Jack always scrambled her thoughts and she just hated that she could never come up with those fast snappy responses that quick thinking people can. People smarter than she is.

Jack's voice lowered, "Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me." He turned and stormed off.
*******************


Ok, a pretty bad example I think, but it's an off-the-cuff scene. I like to think the second scene has stronger impact even though they havn't actually said anything more than in the first attempt. Do more "words" equal a better scene? I don't think so, as I could have made it a lot heavier on the dialogue and still not gotten accross what I intended with how Jill felt.

If none of the above helps, or you think I am talking out of my ass, then get yourself a copy of The Writer and see what I mean for yourself. They really are great examples.

15 comments:

Jennifer Talty said...

Getting the emotion right is sooooo important. You can really miss the BOAT with a scene if you muck up the opportunity to really amp up the emotion. This is one of my weaknesses as a writer. I really have to concentrate on how the character should be reacting in any given situatuion and show that.

Great examples and I have that Mag. Guess i should go read it.

Jen.

OzWriter said...

One might say it is SUICIDAL to not have at least a little emotion in ones writing... ;-P

Glenn

Jennifer Talty said...

I'm laughing so hard right now it hurts.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great link, Ozzy. Emotion is key and can really make a scene pop. I'm with Jen, though. It can be hard to do. So thanks again for the link.

OzWriter said...

I seem to find it very hard to do, but I'm working on it, truly I am...

Jennifer Talty said...

So, we done yet? (insert evil grin)

OzWriter said...

Shit. Thank you for reminding me. Emotion attmpting to be inserted now.

Jennifer Talty said...

Progress...not perfection.... be the lightning!

I'm such a dork.

Barbie Jo said...

Be the lightning?? WTF??? Reminds me too much of Caddy Shack and Be one with the ball... Shanananananan.....

Yo Ozzy! You out there?? Kari and I are blogging like crazy in Fly Girl land. Wanna come play? Are you awake? I get those damn time zones all screwed up. I have a degree in accounting but totally suck at math. Go figure.

We've found us a Chardonnay pinot blend that will knock your bloomin knickers off (oh wait... that Britan not Australia) sorry, wrong nationality, but I'm an American - go figure~!

So ifin you're up? come play!!! We're on all night.

Barbie Jo - out.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Or is it "May the Force be with you, Ozzy one Comeblowme." (last word was from Barbie Jo) But I admit, I was thinking the same thing.

Okay, step away from the wine. Yeah, the bunnies should never blog while drinking.

Seriously, come play with us, you wanker;))

Karitown out!!!

OzWriter said...

Ahhh, two drunk women posting on my blog. I ask you, does anything get better than that?

Glenn

p.s. Bunny, in Australia we say undies, not knickers...

Jennifer Talty said...

I'm a little bit EMOTIONAL right now since all my friends had a cyber part without me. Sniff Sniff. Someone please hand me a tissue...

Manic Mom said...

So, was it good for you over at Fly Girls? ; )

OzWriter said...

Hey Manic,

Yup it was fun, but unfrotunatly for me must come to an end. My workplace has decreed blogs and forums as unnacaptable at work so I am having to go cold turkey. Only blogging for Glenn now is in the mornings or evenings.

Bummer

Glenn

Jennifer Talty said...

Geez, and to think we renamed my car to the OzMobile!

Hey dude, you need a new post. I know, I'm a pushy broad.