How to Make Memorable Characters Part 4: Writing Deep Character Emotions
Heeellllloooooo!!!!!!! I’ve FINALLY RETURNED to my writing series!!!! *pumps fist in the air* Just to note, because of other posts that are piling up, I might not get to part 5 in Dec. Buuuttt I think Katherine’s gonna do a writing post in a couple of weeks, so we won’t leave you hanging!! Anyway, today’s part 4, I’m changing. What I had planned I still wanna do, but it’s getting pushed back. Today, though, we’re gonna talk about writing deep character emotions. (Suggested by the AMAZING Joy Caroline. *clap, clap, clap* Thanks for the suggestion, actually, I wouldn’t have thought about it, if you hadn’t said something.) So, there’s a WHOLE lot we could talk about on character emotions (like with just about anything in writing), but I’m gonna give you a few tips to help set you down the right path. Before, though, let me define what I’m talking about when I say ‘character emotion’. I’m referring to that part in the story when your character is broken or at a point of hopelessness or maybe just REALLY hurt or sad. That could be when a character dies or maybe when their plan to get exactly what they desire falls apart. The time of what some people term, “the point of no return.”
(At least, I think I heard someone say that….) So this is mainly focusing on how to draw your reader in emotionally, making them feel the same way your character is feeling. Making the character emotions deep enough, that the reader feels it, too. (I’m gonna say that I have no idea if I’ve ever successfully accomplished this.)
Wow, long intro. Cue the tips!
Play on the reader’s emotions
Readers are humans, we have emotions. If you make a character we all REALLY love die, that’s gonna pull a lot of the weight to making the scene emotional. When you can play off our emotions, do so. Now, of course that’s not always gonna be able to happen, for instance, if it’s just that your character is having a really hard time and have hit rock bottom, though playing off the reader’s emotions will take some effect, you’re gonna need a lot more to pull it through.
Don’t let the emotional scene start right at the point of “no return.”
If the scene is like all of a sudden this person died and two pages later we’re saving the day, nothing’s gonna work. Your “emotional scene” should start like fifty to a hundred pages BEFORE the actual scene. If your “emotional scene” is where the MC hits rock bottom and has no hope of making his/her dream come true, then show minor things that get in the way of said dream and the MC always finding a way to get past them. Struggling, failing, pushing through. And then maybe like a hundred or so pages later, he/she has given up. Rock bottom. It’s more meaningful when we’ve already seen the MC face minor push backs. Basically, your plot should be building up to that emotional scene. Which also leads to, emotional scenes can happen early on in the book, but what we’re talking about is the ultimate one. That needs to happen very close to the end right before the hero/heroine chooses to rise up and save the day. Ones that happen close to the beginning aren’t really gonna impact the reader much. Like I read this book once where a character died in the prologue of the book, and though it really hurt the MC, I was more like well that happened what’s next. It wasn’t a big deal for me, ’cause I hardly knew who the dude was. But it was useful later in the story, so I’m not saying it should’ve been taken out, only that you shouldn’t expect readers to get emotional at a scene that happens five pages into the book.
Use a lot of action.
Though descriptive feelings can totally help, we also need to “see” the MC’s pain and not just be told about it. What does the MC do? Does he turn to an aggressive side? Does she cry or not cry? Here’s a great spot to implement some strong action verbs. This will really carry the scene through. (Also, thank you Allie Andersen for suggesting this tip! You’re awesome girl!!)
Draw the scene out.
This is your big emotional scene, guys. Your plot is building up for this point. It doesn’t need to be some short heart-touch message and then victory. This emotional scene should carry through the next few scenes, meaning that when he/she is riding out to battle (or however the MC is supposed to save the day) if it’s a death, the MC needs to think about it or let it effect its actions. The MC should keep going back to the emotional scene in some way, whether it’s through thought or something. (Sorry for the ‘something’ I have suddenly lost all of my creativity. 😉 .) To be honest, I’m still figuring out how this is gonna work.
I know I just told you guys two tips ago to use action, but I still believe there is some use in description. I just think it should all balance out. Basically by everything, I mean describe the MC’s thoughts, feelings, internal pain (external, if he/she is injured), actions, and reactions. Whatever is happening both internally and externally, We. Need. To. See. It.
Go back to the book.
What I mean by this, is look at other books where you have gotten very emotional. What was it that drew you in emotionally? Was it the way the author described the MC’s feelings? Was it the timing? (For me: Was it simply because you were like WHY DID THIS AUTHOR HAVE TO KILL THAT CHARACTER I MEAN HE WAS SO USEFUL AND I LOVED HIM AND JUST WHY???!!!!!????!!!) Uh…*cough, cough* Moving on. So, yeah, study what other authors are doing that made that emotional scene soooo awesome. Um…you know, awesome in a very sad kind of way. 😉
So, yep. That wraps it up. Don’t forget chapter two in What Lay Beyond the Woods is released today, so go check that out. Annndddd, for all of our The False Prince series fans, I’ve got something TOTALLY AWESOME to share. So I found this awesome interview on this incredible, fun girl’s blog with Jennifer A. Nielsen. I learned a few things I didn’t know. So, those of you who might wanna check that out go HEEEERRRREEEEEE. And look around at her blog. It’s really COOL!!!!!!!! (Also, one of the things I learned was just too amazing, and I want to shout it to the world. But since that’s not possible, I’m just gonna do it here. ERROL IS GOING TO BE IN THE FIFTH BOOK OF THE ASCENDANCE SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *me still screaming about it until the fifth book is released*)
YYYYYEEEEESSSS!!!!! It FINALLY came out!!!! I was literally checking the blog almost every hour see this! These tips will help so much! In fact, as I was reading this I actually stoped in the middle of it to add something to my story because it fit in so well!
*Gasps* Errol is in the next book???!!!!!!! I can’t wait to read it!!! I do have a confession though, so, I kinda forgot who Errol was and had to google who he was, but once I found out I was super excited!😜 I’m going to go read the second chapter now this was SOOOOOOOOO FANTABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!😁 Thank you again for doing these!!
Okay, maybe I put one to many exclamation marks, but who cares, this post deserves every single one and more!!!!
YYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m SOO HAPPY at how excited for this post you are!!! (Hehe, that actually sounds like something I’ve done before. 😉 ) YES! *throws fist in the air* I’m just beyond happy that these tips were helpful! I was a bit worried, ’cause this isn’t an area I’m SUPER strong in….YET!
*double gasp* I KNOW RIGHT!!! Don’t worry, Jane! I was talking to a girl last night about Errol showing up, and she had forgotten him, too. He’s easy to forget, since he’s only in the first book. The only reason I remember him is probably because, well, obsessed fan over here. 😜 Oooh, I hope you enjoy it!!! AAAAHHHHH, You are so VERY welcome, Jane!!!! I’m just happy I could offer a few helpful tips. GIRL, THIS WHOLE COMMENT IS MAKING ME SMILE SO HARD RIGHT NOW!!!!! You’re THE BEST! 👍
Hey, millions of exclamation marks are totally accepted here. (I don’t know if you’ve seen the change I made for the about me part on TWN’s about page, but I’m now calling myself a self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast. I think it fits me very well! 😉 EXCLAMATION MARKS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Aw, JANE, you are just THE SWEETEST!!! Hehehe, I’m TOTALLY down for more exclamation marks: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I did see that about exclamation marks on your ‘about’ page.
Consider me a self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast to!!!!!!!!!😁
You can never have to many!!!!!!!!!!!! And I’m glad I made you smile!!
Oooh, good!! Never have too many exclamation marks, that’s a good life lesson for everyone!!!!!!!!! XD
YAY!! We’ll both be self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiasts!!!!!!!
Allie Jo Andersen
Another great post, Maggie!!! A good rule of thumb when writing character emotions is “show don’t tell,” though that can be used throughout a lot of other aspects as well. 😉 I like the idea of adding hints/foreshadowing before the “hitting rock bottom” moment. Foreshadowing is one of my favorite tools!!
Also, I just wanted to say thanks for the shout-out. 😉😆 I’m glad you thought the tip was helpful!
Oooh, an interview?? I’ll have to check it out!!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOOOOOUUUUUU, ALLIE!! Ah, show don’t tell. One of my weakest and strongest areas all at the same time. (Don’t ask me how that’s possible. 😉 ) FORESHADOWING IS THE BEST!!!!! At least, it’s a lot of fun. Though, I hope that tip is actually true instead of just something I made up. XD (Though that is possible….)
Of course! You’re soo welcome!! When someone helps me out or suggests something, they get a shout out. I couldn’t do it without you and all my amazing readers. Ya’ll are all just THE BEST!!!! I feel soooo blessed to be able to know each one of you!!!!!
Oh, yeah, it was really good!!!!! Plus, you know how I am when I meet another TFP fan. They’re like family. *wipes tears of joy away dramatically* XD Okay, onto more serious things….XD But, yeah, like I told ya, I’m gonna get Jen Nielsen on my site one of these days. That’s like my life goal right now. XD (No, I’m kidding about the life goal thing. Trust me I’m not that crazy.) *silence* *frogs cricketing in the distance* Okay, MAYBE I am….
Allie Jo Andersen
You are very welcome!!! Haha, yep, I understand that. XD Yes, I’m pretty sure it is true, since in K.M. Weiland’s book “Structuring Your Novel,” she recommends foreshadowing any major scenes in some small way at the beginning of the book (even if it’s an odd description, just something that the reader can go back to and go “Oh yeah, THAT’S what that means”).
Aww, we’re blessed by YOU!! You create such a fun, welcoming, warm environment on your blog that just makes me smile whenever I come on here!! I’m so thankful to have gotten to know you!!
XD Yes, that’s pretty awesome! Yess, you definitely should sometime!!! That would be incredible. 🙂 And no, I don’t think you’re crazy. 🙂 You’re just enthusiastic, which is super fun to be around!!
Oooh, that’s good to know. I was a bit worried, I was gonna give everyone random tips that really wouldn’t help. I feel like in my old WIP – the spy and Disney World one – foreshadowing was probably the only thing I did right. But, that book had a TON of plot twists, ’cause that’s my writing style. Yet, for my new WIP (Into the Lamp), the plot twits ain’t coming and there’s like VERY little foreshadowing going on. Not even for the big stuff. One moment I was great at it, the next it doesn’t work out. Someone explain my writing brain to me!!!!!!
Aw, You’re just SOOO SWEET!!!! I try so hard to be fun and welcoming. I’d be so upset with myself if I EVER made anyone not feel special and wanted. Aw, I’m sooooo happy I can make you smile!!!! Your comments and encouragement ALWAYS makes me smile!!! You’re THE BEST, GIRL!! I feel BEYOND gratitude to have gotten to know you!!!! God has been soo good to me!!! Me in the summer wouldn’t have ever imagined I’d be where I’m at now. God’s plan for this site was far beyond what I imagined Him to do, and He’s STILL not done working.
Aaahh, you’re excitement for the possibility of Jen Nielsen doing something on my site is just making me wanna as her so bad. I guess, before/if I do, I’ll need to get a vote from TWN’s readers. So, if I humiliate myself, I know ya’ll have my back. 😉 Aw, THANK YOU, GAL!!!! Though I must say, it might be that the enthusiasm is hiding the crazy from you. XD
THIS IS SO HELPFUL, MAGGIE!!! I really need to go back and read through the other How to Make Memorable Characters posts because I can TOTALLY see how these tips would come in handy with my writing! This post is already giving me some ideas on how to develop my characters’ emotions (especially in the dying department. 😉 I’m determined to write a book someday that will have my readers’ heart’s breaking so much they’ll be sobbing inconsolably when a beloved character dies. And yes. It will be very dramatic). XD But that’s the fun thing about being an author!!! You get to torture your readers with cliffhangers and killing off awesome characters! Well, unless you bring them back to life…but that’s fun too! XP
YAY, I’M SOO HAPPY U FOUND IT HELPFUL!!!!! I honestly felt like I was making a bunch of stuff up. Oh, yes. If you read some of my older posts in the series, totally drop me a comment!!!! YES!!! I was hoping they’d be useful. Oooh, that is A M A Z I N G!!!!!! (hehehehe. I have no doubt in my mind that you can write a book with a very dramatic death scene. Is it crazy that I’m rooting for you and your dream to make readers cry so hard? I mean that’s what we writers want, right? 😉 Sooo DRAMATIC!!!) That’s DEFINITELY one of the perks in the business. Ah, we’re such mean authors. 😉 Haha, yes, it’s really cool when you make everyone think they’re dead and then like, oh, wait gotcha. That person who fell off the cliff actually didn’t die when he made it to the bottom of a eight hundred foot drop. He’s alive and will save the whole day. XD *sighing* The joy of a writer!!
Speaking of making readers cry… are any of you the type of monster that spends two books building chemistry between two characters, then whips around and sticks them with some other person? Because, uh… *runs and hides in refrigerator so none of my proofreading friends come to destroy me*
Hehehehe, that TOTALLY sounds like something I’d do. Actually, if I’m being honest, I don’t really do that. If I’m promising the reader a certain relationship, I’m gonna give it. Though, there MIGHT be a few problems that come along the way…. Hiding in a refrigerator? THAT’S GENIUS!!!!! I’m gonna SOOO remember that one next time!!!! 🙂
Oh, yes, that sounds like something I would do . . . except . . . I’ve never done it in two books . . . mainly just in one book. hehehe😁 Ooh, the refrigerator is the perfect place to hide! We can eat and hide at the same time!😆
Hi Maggie! Thanks so much for this post! All the tips were AWESOME and I definitely wouldn’t have thought of a lot of the things you mentioned. I thought it was very interesting how you said the emotional scene should actually begin fifty to one hundred pages beforehand.
These tips are going to be SUPER helpful for my WIP. At this point I’m building up to the climax, so the scenes are getting shorter and are very intense. The one I just finished writing today definitely foreshadowed disaster to come, and it was the first scene in which my MC feels the emotions creeping up on her that will play out in the climax. I have a near-death scene and a death scene coming up quickly, so this post could not have come at a better time.
Hello, Joy Caroline!!! Thank you again for your suggestion!! I DEFINITELY would not have thought of this if you hadn’t said something!!! Aw, you are soooo very welcome!!! YAY!! I’m SOOOO HAPPY this was helpful to you!!!!! I was a bit worried about it. So, yes, this comment is making me VERY happy!!! Oooh, with that suggestion I didn’t know if it was something that would actually work or I just made it up, so VERY HAPPY that some of this will be helpful!!!!! Oooh, THE CLIMAX!!! Aaahh, short and intense scenes are the easiest for me to write. I just get bored in my stories if I don’t make SOMETHING happen. (Which is probably why I’m very mean to Colin….) Oooh, that sounds just SOOO EXCITING!!!!! Well, uh…exciting in a not so fun way for the character. 😉 Us authors are crazy over what makes us excited! AWESOME!!! *happy dance* I’m sooooo happy I decided to post it when I did, then!!! I’ve got a few near death scenes and a death scene coming up in my own story, so maybe my own tips will help me out. 😆
Same! I feel like the action-packed scenes are so much easier. I find the words just flow when there’s a lot of chaos around my characters. I love building up to the climax, it’s so freaking epic. LOL, you’re not the only mean author. I’ve honestly put my poor MC through WAY too much, but that’s just reality. IKR, she is going to have a very difficult time for the next few chapters. But that only makes the ultimate triumph so much more TRIUMPHANT!!!
Good luck with your scenes. I’m feeling kind of nervous but really excited!
Action-packed scenes are just SOOO MUCH FUN TO WRITE!!!!! I AM THE EXACT SAME WAY!!!! Twinsies!! *high-fives* Phew!! Good to know!! 😁 But, I mean, it’s called tough love, right? ‘Cause, like you said, it makes the victory mean SO MUCH MORE when they have to fight to get it. And, yeah, in reality, we face tough times and they make us stronger people if we chose to have perseverance!
Thank you, same to you!!!! Don’t worry, I know YOU WILL DO AWESOME WITH IT!!!!!!!!!! I’m cheering you on, girl!! *waving pom poms*
Thanks!! *waving pom poms back at you
You’re welcome!!!! Aw, THANKS A BUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love the book quote you guys put up for this month!! I haven’t read ‘A Christmas Carol’ yet, but I planning on reading it this month 🙂
THANK YOU, JANE!!!!!!!! Yours truly, picked it! Also, I’m just glad to know someone reads the quotes. I never know if anyone remembers to check over there any month. Also, I’m gonna have to, shamefully, admit that I’ve only ever read an abridge version of A Christmas Carol, and that was a loooooooonnnnngggg time ago. I actually found the quote online. I searched for Christmas quotes from books. *smiles sheepishly* But, YES, THANK YOU!!!!!!11
Your welcome!!! Good choice! I actually just saw the quote today (like, right before I commented on it) but really like that you put up the book quotes every month.
That makes me feel a little bit better that I haven’t read it yet. That sounds like something I would do. 😛 I still really like the quote❤
YAY!!! I actually really enjoy picking out the quotes every month!!!!!!! So, VERY glad you like reading them!!!!!!
Hehehehe….you and me are sooooo alike in many ways!!!! <3333
These were great tips, Maggie! An emotional scene I recently read used a combination of a lot of these, so balance is definitely vital to an emotional scene’s success. 😀
YAY!!!! I’m sooo glad, Jen!!! Oooh, that’s actually a relief, since I was SUPER worried I was just making stuff up. I tend to use logic occasionally when it comes to writing tips. Oh, yes, you don’t want to overload your story with one thing and leave out the other. Finding a balance is ALWAYS good!! 👍
Fabulous tips!!! Especially the one about not letting the most climatic emotional scene happen so early in the book… that’s one I need to work on, lol!
AWWWW THANK YOU SO MUCH, Saraina!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahaha, girl, I sooooo feel ya. That’s a really hard one for me as well. If I’m not careful my climatic moments happen by chapter four.😅 THANK YOU for reading!!!!!!