Sunday, January 10, 2010

What our readers feel

First of all, hello to everyone who is visiting from Comment Challenge and from Nicola Morgan's blog birthday party. (Yay, Nicola!!! What a great first year!)

edittorrent had a fabulous post about emotion in writing. Alicia pointed out that we often think want our readers to feel what our character is feeling. Authors will pour energy into accurately and creatively describing a character's internal state. We think nailing that moment in our character's life will guarantee that a reader will join the character in that emotion. We also think that having our readers feel what our characters do is the major goal.

However, Alicia wrote that, as writers, we should want readers to feel more that our characters do. A reader can empathize with our characters, but is also capable of feeling all sorts of emotions layered above and below what our character is experiencing.

I'm going to pull this quote from her blog because she says it wonderfully (and to convince you to visit the blog and read the entire post):

"There will be times when you want the reader to feel something-- humiliation, dread, pity-- that the character is not feeling in the scene. So it's not just about making the reader feel what the character is feeling. (And, in fact, some characters are not going to feel anything-- but the reader still can.) Sometimes you want the reader to know (if not feel) what the character is feeling, but feel something else or in addition. That's when you have to go beyond mere replication of the character's feelings. Something else has to be added to inspire the reader to feel the additional emotion. The totality of the scene, all the elements that go into making the scene, can inspire emotion in the reader."

Good stuff, don't you think? I love reading a post that opens up another facet of writing. It's yet another issue to keep in mind as I wade through all the revision I'm doing.

11 comments:

catdownunder said...

Prowling in from Nicola Morgan's birthday party...well you did say you wanted visitors so I hope cats are welcome?
Getting readers to empathise and then more than empathise with the characters? Yes arranging cat hairs in neat bundles across the page is not enough. They have to be so much more than that!

Nicola Morgan said...

Hello - sorry I'm so late: there have been a LOT of places to visit today! Slushbusters sounds like a great idea. How are you all doing? I'm going to do a bit of trawling round your blog to see what I can find out about you...

Amy said...

Great quote. Daunting for writers, but great idea.

Sarah said...

Welcome, catdownunder! Of course cats are welcome.

Hello, Nicola! We're doing well. Joan's getting ready to send her MG MS out for submission. Lisa, Michelle, and I are revising our MS's. And Steph and Alison are working on new MS's. We certainly have a lot to discuss when we get together...

Amy, just saw your sight on vintage cookbooks. Wow!

Michelle said...

I agree, Sarah, although it's not something I had thought about before!

Welcome to the discussion, Cat, Nicola and Amy!

Tess said...

Really good advice and insight. But, facing edits myself, it is also a little overwhelming...you know, all that we have to consider when crafting that scene/character. It's a lot.

creativewritingintheblackberrypatch said...

Hi, I'm not from the comment challenge, I just happened onto your site. I like commenting, tho, and I like having comments on my site also. But it seems like everyone likes to lurk. I love your name, Slushbusters, it's something all of us writers want to be. I write picture books and MG.

Sarah said...

CreativeWriting, I'm so glad you dropped by! I'll have to visit your blog tomorrow!

Tess, it felt a little freeing for me, actually. It was nice to think that there were different ways to reach readers- that I didn't always have to make them feel what a character felt. They did a much better job of describing it in the post. And I have to ask... how did it feel coming into the new year with a book deal? Or are the edits making you a bit crazy?

Rebecca Knight said...

Haha, I love this blog! :D Great name, and great idea. Visiting from Nicola's to say "howdy!"

Sarah said...

Thanks for dropping by, Rebecca! It was a great party, wasn't it?

Alison said...

Reading short stories is a great way to see this in action. I especially recommend Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy b/c they both have lots of short stories that are character based and they create their characters so well. They always keep the reader a step back, able to observe that character and see points of view that the character is oblivious to. I love how well they can do that! They can even do it in first person! Awesome.