By Sharla Rae
Let’s face it, mining for the best expression of emotions whether it’s body language, gut reactions, internalization or dialogue can be like panning for gold. A lot of useless grit is sloshed around before you hit pay dirt.
Picture this: You’re sitting at your computer; the sun is shining through the window and you’re feeling happy vibes.
Then scrolling to page 49 of your book, you realize you left a very angry Zelda stranded knee-deep in alligators at the office. Worse, because you, the writer are Zelda’s alter ego, you have to ditch your good day and feel what she feels . . . on paper at least.
At one of our OCC RWA chapter meetings, an actress spoke about conveying character types to an audience. Although female, her body slipped into the physical persona of a cocky young male. It was amazing to watch. She lead with her hips, took center stage, and mimed puffing on a cigarette. Her grin reeked male smugness. Instead of a young and attractive female, I saw a cock-sure punk,
What an actress does on stage
is exactly what I want to do with the written word.
So where can a writer dig up these emotions? Once we know the emotion, to what degree should it be dramatized?
I did some research on methods used by actors and discovered their tools crossover to writers.
At Actor’s Exchange where actors, directors etc. exchange industry info, it was suggested that actors must first be aware of “all” facets of emotions. In other words, emotions don’t happen in a vacuum.
One method used by actors is called, The Methods or emotional memory technique of acting. This amounts to recalling personal emotions and what they felt like and then portraying that to the audience.
A second method for an actor is to portray character emotions by Accessing Physical Reactions To Emotions. Actors can bring themselves to the edge of tears by triggering a yawn which brings tears. This won’t work on paper but writers can access and write physical reaction.
BUT! There are drawbacks.
Both methods use personal, recalled feelings and reactions. They may not be in keeping with the personality of the character. (See my blog: Keep Characters True To Themselves)
Actor’s Exchange suggests that the best method to show emotion is to know the play/story, and the character.Duh! Sound familiar?
So here’s my version of how it works:
1] Be the character: Jump into his skin. The character is a combination of your experienced emotions, who the “character” is, his motivations and his situation.
One article I found, Acting Emotions by Elly A. Konijn called this a “double consciousness,” the remembered emotion is the writers/actor’s but they are aware of the character’s circumstance and personality.
2] Allow the story contents to “trigger” the emotions you need.
We all know and understand anger but there are varying degrees and ways of expressing it. The story’s content and the triggering event determine how a particular personality expresses an emotion.
Concerning anger you might ask questions like these:
For me, body language, dialogue and introspection are the easiest expressions of emotion. It’s the gut reactions that throw me. For this reason I’m including a list of possibilities. And yes, some examples cross over into the other emotional forms.
This list just scratches the surface so I hope you’ll comment and add some of your own ideas. Be sure to see the links at the bottom of the blog.
Emotion As A Physical/Gut Reaction
Let’s talk. How do you mine for character emotions?
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