No Hearts, Gulps, or Sighs

heartToday 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.

2 Responses to No Hearts, Gulps, or Sighs

  • I can see how those would the hard to write. There are so many details and emotions you want to portray to your audience but you want to do so in a way that gives your readers the experience of exploring the scene from their own point of view without unnecessary interruptions and distractions. While I am sure these scenes are quite daunting and frustrating even, just know that we readers appreciate your effort. Scenes like this make your heart race and your blood boil and are often the ones that are most remembered in books. These scenes are what really allow us to connect to the characters you so brilliantly create. To sit down with a book and feel what the characters feel, to the point where your body can physically react to what is going on; this is what creates the never-ending bond between readers and a book. It is this feeling that hooks readers; it is the drug that keeps up coming back book after book, series after series… (sorry if I rambled on a bit, up late… I should probably go to bed lol).

  • Jesse ~
    Thank you! I agree that the emotional scenes are the ones that help us, as readers, connect to the characters. It’s a high goal to aim for when I’m writing.

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