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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Emotions – show, don’t tell, part two

Writing emotions is very closely linked to other factors:

--the words you use

--character personality

--point of view

A writer can take advantage of point of view to show emotions in different characters. Emotions depend very strongly on the who point of view character is, and how they respond to the action.

On Monday, John kissed Sally and I showed her confusion and denial. But what if John kissed Victoria instead?

She thrust him away.

She stared at him a long moment. Her heart still pounded, still feeling the pulse of his when he had pressed her against him. She didn’t understand. He had just walked into town last week, and today she melted in his arms like butter on her French crepe pan. Why did she respond to him so forcefully? Did she love him? Did he love her?

Of course he didn’t love her. He was probably simply taking a little pleasure in his aimless wanderings. And she, like a wanton woman, had responded to his passion, his fire, his strength. All physical—nothing more. While her body still tingled, her heart was untouched.


If you read Sally’s account, she came across as a bit ditzy and childlike. Victoria, however, is more sophisticated, with a more romantic vocabulary, and with thoughts that don’t bounce around.

Both women are first confused, then in denial. But I took advantage of the point of view of the scene to show their different characters.

Your reader becomes, in a sense, the point of view character in each scene. Milk it for all it’s worth. Reveal depths of personality with words, thoughts, emotions that are specific to that character.

Is your heroine a Sally? A Victoria? Your scene should be distinguishable between the two characters, not just because of the different names, but because of the way it’s written, because of the way you utilize point of view.
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