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Friday, May 11, 2007

Emotions – actions

Actions and body language are terrific tools for showing character emotion. When coupled with dialogue, physical reactions, and thoughts, the reader gets a complete picture of what the character is feeling, and better yet experiences those feelings with the character.

First off, don’t resort to cliché actions like running a hand through his hair, or throwing a glass/vase/figurine at the fireplace. You’re a writer, be creative! Think of things more unique, and yet suited to the particular character.

Also, make sure you go in order of how a body would react. Usually it’s physical reactions and thoughts first, then dialogue, then actions and body language.

Scarlett O’Hara didn’t stamp her foot first and then feel her head sizzle with anger. She had a physical reaction first and used her foot stamping to punctuate her emotions.

It’s not always this order of events, granted, but this is the typical order of things according to inertia—it takes more effort and more neurons firing to speak and act than it does to have a knee-jerk reaction or think certain thoughts.

When your reader reads a character acting a certain way, to an extent, the reader feels himself act that way, too. When Scarlett stamps her foot, the reader can almost feel the thump of the boards under her heel at the same time.

That’s why actions are so vital to help your reader experience your character’s emotions.

Use character actions judiciously and with great creativity. Actions and body language can really pull your reader into your character’s head and body.

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