Quick-Tip Tuesday: Writing With Emotion

Sometimes we writers overthink our work (and in that spirit, this will be a brief post). We try to create spectacular worlds and amazing magic systems and plots filled with surprises and twists. And all of that is great. When I read, I love narrative complexity, rich settings, and remarkable magic.

But I read for emotion. I read, as do so many, because I want to delve into the internal lives of compelling characters. Humans are natural voyeurs and eavesdroppers. We are curious about other people, sometimes to a disturbing degree. (See: Kardashian, Kim) One of the great allures of reading, I believe, is the chance not only to listen to and watch characters, but also to have access to their thoughts and emotions.

I bring this up because I have noticed in working with students and less experienced writers, a tendency to shy away from exploring the emotions of […]

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How Not to Write Like a Psychopath

So, I was reading the book WITHOUT CONSCIENCE while I was traveling to the London Book Fair last month because, as many of you may know, I have a strange fascination for psychopathy. (Not for the reasons you might think — wait, what do you think? The mind boggles.) But because the closest evidence I can find for the existence of the soul is that some people are so clearly born without one.

What on earth does any of this have to do with writing, you may ask. Well, strangely, I found myself flagging a couple of sections for this very blog: “How Not to Write Like a Psychopath.” One section in particular that caught my attention was when the author, Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. was quoting a psychopath asked to describe fear: “I notice that the teller shakes or becomes tongue-tied. One barfed over the money. She must […]

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On Writing Emotion

Escapism is often a big part of pleasure reading. It is fun to get away from it all and get caught up in someone else’s story. To suspend disbelief and go on an adventure from the comfort of our chairs. For different genres “adventure” may conjure up images anywhere from epic battles to grisly crime scenes to erotic sex scenes, but is that what really draws us in? What makes us hang on to every word and flip the page? Is it really the blow by blow action of a fight, or is it the excitement, fear, and anticipation as we experience that fight with the character? Is it the detailed gore, or the horror, anger, and urgency we experience as the character investigates the crime? Is it inventive choreography of insert tab A in slot B, or is it the anticipation and passion as the characters we’ve been rooting […]

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“since feeling is first…”

since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you

— e.e. cummings

That has always been one of my favorite stanzas of poetry. Many years ago, a couple of years before I met my wife, cummings’ words helped me understand why I had to break up with a woman I was dating who was making me miserable. I wrote the lines in a small notebook of quotes — one that I still keep and even add to occasionally — along with a few other phrases that captured the angst of mid-twenties failed love. Eventually I grew up a little, moved on, built my life with Nancy, and my need for that little notebook lessened. It had been a while since I’d read through some of the older entries in the notebook, but a couple of weeks ago, while rummaging through […]

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Tragedy and the Writer

It’s been quite a week here in our little town. We’ve been dealing with the aftermath of events great and terrible, events that have nothing at all to do with writing, but have had a profound impact on me as a writer. What follows is entirely true, save for the names.

Tragedy Averted: Wednesday was a warm, stormy day here in Sewanee. Temperatures in the sixties, thunderstorms, powerful winds. I had just gotten my old daugther from school and was driving with her into town. Taking the main road in, we were stopped by firemen and EMTs who were working on a vehicle, several cars in front of us. We turned around, found another way into town, but on the way back out saw that a car had been hit by a fallen tree. Turns out the driver, Sarah, was a friend of ours. The tree, which was at least […]

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