No Hearts, Gulps, or Sighs
Today I wrote the first draft of an awful scene. It’s scary and sad and troubling to me, and I hadn’t seen it coming, either. It evolved naturally in a new chain of events I was trying in Project Next, and then, bam, I had to be responsible to my characters and expand a full-blown, agonizing scene.
It’s hard to write about emotion and have it work on the page. It’s tempting to throw in tears, beating hearts, gulps, and sighs, but although those feel important and powerful when we’re feeling them, they read almost always as distracting clichés on the page. They usually fail to summon a responding emotion in the reader.
Yet, without those physical cues to express emotions, I struggle to write them. I feel like I need to discover how to write, all over again. Instead of describing their feelings, I have to live the trouble with my characters, through all their not knowing and confusion. They stumble through inadequate attempts to talk to each other, or comfort each other, and I inch forward with them, just wishing I could walk out of the room and not have to be there.
I’ll go back to revise, of course. I’ll take any distracting heartbeats out of the prose, and then I’ll check my own heart as I read to see if it’s doing that cringe thing in response to the failure, or the helplessness, or the longing. In the end, it will wring me out, if it’s any good.