3 Things to Consider When Writing Emotion

= 3 things to consider when writing emotion R.S. Mollison-Read

Writing emotion for characters is an extremely important aspect in creating believable characters. Since characters are the aspect of storytelling to which a reader will ultimately connect, the importance of great character writing cannot be overstated. Here are some techniques I like to employ when writing emotion:

#1. Progression: 
For the most part, emotions don’t just spring up out of nowhere. Most people don’t ‘explode into anger’ or dissolve into a deep depression out of nowhere. In order to write believable characters, their emotional actions need to be believable as well, and this means a logical progression of emotions. If a character is going to be apoplectic with rage at something, first they should be irritated, and annoyed, maybe disgusted, and then move into anger, and fury, until they arrive at rage. Most characters, (and there are some delicious exceptions) will feel emotions as a range, and not just at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

#2. ‘Small’ emotions:
Not everything has to be the big 4 of emotions: Happy, Sad, Angry, Scared. Writing characters who only experience these four (or *gasp* even less), infantalizes characters. There are so many wonderful emotions to choose from, make sure to experiment with some of them! Here are some particularly ‘juicy’ emotions: Anxiety, awe, contempt, disappointment, disgust, embarrassment, envy, frustration, guilt, hope, jealousy, pity, pride, regret, shame, trust, and zeal!

#3. Emotional Reactions:
So much of our human experience is through our interaction with other people, and so an important aspect of emotion to consider is emotional reaction to another character. Every character in a scene should have a reaction to another character’s emotional output. When I write emotional scenes, I like to keep a catalogue of every character’s emotional reaction, even if I don’t choose to reveal that reaction to the reader at the time. I find this very helpful in forming my character maps, and it is particularly important if I need to reference that scene, (and the emotions felt in that scene) later in the novel, or even later in the series!

So, what techniques do you use for writing emotions?


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7 thoughts on “3 Things to Consider When Writing Emotion

  1. Great writing tips~much appreciated 🙂

  2. Thank-you Linda! I'm glad you found them helpful!

  3. Excellent advice, thank you so much! (skywanderer)

  4. Glad you found something useful! Thanks for visiting!

  5. Hi Rachel–Great post. Useful things to keep in mind when writing.Victoria–

  6. Very useful tips, Rachael. I totally agree that writers should use the Big Four sparingly.

  7. I love your #2 point. The idea of "infantalizing" characters is spot on. I wonder about #1, though. How intensely a character reacts–and whether s/he progresses through the degrees of anger–depends on the stimuli. There are certain things that punch my buttons so hard, I become infantalized! 😀