“Every person’s feelings have a front-door and a side-door by which they may be entered”
(Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.)
WERE YOU EVER TOLD: “YOU DID NOT BRING CHARACTERS TO LIFE?”
I was, and it was the biggest let-down I could ever imagine. My first reaction was: if I could not bring life to my characters, why am I writing? I put the rejected manuscript in a drawer, hidden in shame. After weeks of disappointment, I took the manuscript out of the drawer and re-read my draft. That is when I realized, although I felt the emotions and feelings of my characters, I neglected to reflect those feelings in my writing.
It was evident I had to learn the difference between emotions and feelings. I found a wonderful Article written by David Corbett, in Writers’ Digest.
Emotion is created through action generated by the character. Sometimes it is an action not expected of your character. Sometimes the character is experiencing multiple emotions in the scene you are creating. One thing I did learn is to ask myself what is the obvious response my character might have, and then what other emotion is possible. His advice: To make your characters more real, give them unexpected reactions to the scene playing out. In writing a mystery, the character may exhibit misdirected emotions to overlook the obvious.
Feelings require mental examination of the thoughts and motives of your characters. You can create empathy for your character with feelings. Is it right or wrong to feel this way? Would a stronger person feel the same? Is it the only response for the character? Is the response worse or better than the response to other situations? Allow your readers enough information to process the meaning of what happened and make a plan how to proceed. Start with an unexpected element, or a surprise, and find a physical analogy for it.
Using both together, I learned that I can create a character that changes from the beginning to the end of my story. Further, he advises that through the thoughts and actions of the characters, the reader is also taken along the same path of self-awareness as the characters.
With this information, I re-wrote my manuscript, hoping to succeed in bringing my characters to life and not having to experience the same discouraging review again.
I thank David Corbett, author of “The Art of Character, for his informative piece.