But How Do You Feel?

One of the most common comment I write on student manuscripts is, “How does the character feel about this event?” or “What is her reaction?” It’s easy to narrate events, much harder to show internal reactions. But as a writer, you need these reactions. Knowing how the characters feel draws the readers into the story.

So how do you do it? Here’s a primer.

YOU CAN STATE EMOTIONS DIRECTLY
–“Nick felt nervous.”
–“Jessica was so proud.”
–This is the weakest way, but it can be effective. The main problem is that it usually uses linking verbs, which make for passive sentences.

YOU CAN USE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS
–“A nervous sweat broke out on Nick’s face.”
–“Jessica proudly tossed her head.”
–This is rather stronger, but be careful not to overuse -ly adverbs, since they’ll become repetitive.

YOU CAN SNEAK THEM IN WITH FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
–“Nick slipped into the room, feeling as nervous as a mouse in a hawk’s nest.”
–“You could bounce rocks off Jessica’s pride.”
–This way is often better, though too many similes and metaphors in a row will annoy the reader.

YOU CAN DESCRIBE THE PHYSICAL SENSATIONS.
–“Nick’s mouth dried up and his hands shook. He found he couldn’t sit still, and his toes seemed to tap on their own.”
–“Jessica threw her head back and strode across the podium, a proud, well-earned smile on her face. Thundrous applause boomed through her very bones.”
–“I looked over the edge of the cliff and my insides turned to liquid.”
–However, physical sensations add to emotions. They don’t replace them.

YOU CAN MAKE THE EMOTIONS DO THINGS.
–“Fear turned Nick’s hands to ice and his heart jerked inside his chest like it was trying to jump out.”
–“Pride swelled Jessica’s chest and put a jaunty spring in every step.”
–“Bright happiness filled me like golden sunshine, and I ran down the steps to meet him.”
–This is one of the stronger ways, though it gets repetitive if overused.

There are other ways as well, but this will get you started.

A more complicated way involves using your setting. We’ll talk about that next week.

–Steven Harper Piziks

http://spiziks.livejournal.com

OFFSPRING, the fourth and final Silent Empire book, is now available on Amazon’s Kindle for $1.79. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002LASFBS

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But How Do You Feel? — 2 Comments

  1. I am a big fan of action. Titus feels angry so he punches the wall (and then in theory has to live with the bruising!)

  2. Gaaaaah. This is probably the biggest thing I have to work on now . . . comments all over my ms are feel deeper, get under the skin, etc. It’s *hard*.