I was reading a pretty interesting book. However, for some reason, I had moments where I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the story. I couldn’t figure out why. As I kept reading, I realized the author did a lot of telling instead of showing. Made it hard for me to experience with the characters were feeling. You’ve probably heard show don’t tell a lot. It’s more like find a balance between showing and telling. Both have their places. Except when writing emotions. In most cases.
It’s difficult to feel the characters emotions if you simply write:
Happiness bubbled within her.
You’d be better writing:
Her face hurt from smiling so much. Her stomach danced to an almost uncomfortable level. But she didn’t care. She wanted to dance with it. She wanted to open her window and sing.
How can you write emotions readers can feel?
I sometimes read a book wondering if the author has ever read a book. I see this happen often with indie authors. When you read a lot, you get a better sense of what you think is good writing. You learn how to balance showing and telling. Eventually, you gain instincts that tell you which one is right for your scene or when you’re scene goes on for too long.
When I struggle to write emotions, I consult the Emotions Thesaurus. You’ll get a general idea of what happens to the body both internally and externally when a person experiences certain emotions. Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint is also useful for new writers.
It’s a handy book if you’re struggling with point of view as well. Emotions Revealed is another useful book I found on my quest.
Writing Emotions From Your Own Experience
When I feel something strongly, I open my notes app or a story and write it down exactly what I’m feeling. I mentioned in an Instagram post that when I was feeling sick, I opened The Sciell Legacy and did exactly this. As it happened, one of my characters was feeling sick and I had been struggling to describe it.
Divine’s body was heavy. Rocks had dropped at the base of his skull. He piled on layers of clothes and still he was cold. The pain in his head thumped to the rhythm of his steps. He was too tired to keep walking. The pain twisted and writhed whenever he stopped.
When doing this, be mindful of your own mental health. I don’t want to remember certain things let alone write them down to use in a story. Sometimes writing has us traveling the darkest part of our minds. But, we have to be prepared for that journey.
Ever heard the rule never use the word to define the word. It can be distracting if you always tell the reader what the character is feeling. Try to avoid using things like fear welled up inside me. Think about the last time you were scared. At that moment, did you think fear was welling up inside of you? I’m actually surprised what little goes through my head as those moments. My brains usually get stuck on one thought. Get to know your characters. How would they react when scared?