While driving back from the grocery store, I was hit by a truck and the driver took off. The emotions I experienced were shock, anger, and a twinge of fear. The latter one was probably because I write suspense, and my mind always goes into story mode. But the truth is, fear often results from the unpredictable and suspicions from those who harm us.
|Are you guilty of hit and run emotions?|
The same applies to the characters in our stories. What happens when a writer has a character encounter a traumatic incident and there’s no reaction? Or what happens when a character responds to a minor incident with drama-queen emotion?
Both scenarios can destroy a reader’s reality check and toss the reader out of the story. Future purchases from that writer are nil. Sad, but true. Not much opportunity for a second chance when there are so many writers competing for our attention.
To avoid hit and run emotion in our stories, we can take steps to ensure our characters’ reactions to events are met with responses that are in character, realistic, and slide into genre.
For credible emotion, we writers must thoroughly understand our POV characters. This means taking time to develop their personality, unique traits, and backstory. A character who handles anger by stuffing it may logically end up with an ulcer. A character who deals with anger by breaking noses may need anger management classes. The first key to overcoming inappropriate reactions lies in characterization.
Many writers keep a journal of the happenings in their lives and how they reacted. It’s been said that if a writer is unwilling to seek resolution to life’s explosions, then the writer will never be able to write about those same emotions effectively.
Dramatic reactions to small incidents initiates skepticism in the reader, unless the writer is gifted in humor. Even those stories must be crafted with care. When a hero or heroine appears callused to tragedy, displays an absence of wit or logic, or is over-the-top in dialogue, readers no longer care about the character or the story.
|Don’t hit the reader with a drama queen!|
The many genres provide us an opportunity to show our stories through a variety of techniques. The criterion dictates the story world’s dialogue, culture, goals, setting, and symbolism. The seven universal emotions stated in Tonya Reiman’s,The Power of Body Language are surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, happiness, and contempt. Every POV character experiences these emotions according to genre guidelines. Here are a few examples:
Contemporary: Today’s world is filled with instant information from various communication devices. Problems arise from dealing in a world where change is the norm. A character is continuously assaulted with situations that involve coping devices according to traits and backstory. Contemporary characters filter a whirl of happenings through their personal data bank of their past.
Historical: The past is known for its slower pace of living. Communication from local,
national, and worldwide events shape the future many times before the character learns about them. Culture and gender often dictate how a character receives and processes emotion.
Romance: Romance is an emotional adventure. This aspect of novel writing can be woven into any genre. A thread of romance invites a reader into a dreamlike world of fresh and breathless love.
|Create emotions for your fantasy world.|
Speculative:This genre has a broad range of categories from fantasy to sci-fi. Here the setting and culture blends with character to show how emotion is received and processed. Because the story world is unusual, how a character views emotion is according to the writer’s discretion.
Suspense: Suspense can be written into any genre, much like romance, but the character’s reaction to a state of anxiousness or uncertainty with a blanket of fear leads the character down a path of uneasiness and often apprehension. Heroes and heroines walking through suspense are survivors who have learned to manage and compartmentalize their emotions in a way that is healthy and believable.
Hit and run emotions. We writers don’t have to be labeled with this criticism because we understand the power of character, reality, and genre.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure.
She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.
DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.