“You write from a distance.” I couldn’t figure out exactly what that meant, but the words jumped off the page of a critique I’d had done at a conference. I write at a “DISTANCE.” So if I write at a distance, how did I learn to write up close and personal?
When I had the opportunity to sit across the table from the critquer, I learned my writing lacked emotion. Phrases and words that tripped the readers senses, drew them into the character and allowed them to “feel.” The writing was good, but it lacked the most important part of a story…emotional impact.
I began my writing adventure by learning to write devotions and it was here, God taught me the most valuable lesson I’d ever learn in writing. He taught me to open up. If I wanted the words He gave me to move the reader, then I needed to bleed onto the page. I practiced daily and more so, I prayed about how to touch the reader. If I could write something that moved my own heart, I would have gained the ability connect on a very personal and intimate level to the story I told. To this day I believe this is the single most important writing lesson I have ever learned. This was the lesson God taught me…to move my own heart from a place of commonality into a new and uncommon place. When I could do that then God was teaching me to write with emotion and heart. Not just pretty words.
There is power in mastering the art of emotion in writing. It’s more than pretty words, more than the story…it’s a ballroom dance where emotion allows the story to lead and the two twist and twirl around the floor in perfect harmony. Graceful and beautiful. But it takes practice. It takes hard work…but who ever said the craft of writing was easy?
My buddy Eddie, described emotion best. “You gotta find your scab and scratch. Scratch until it bleeds.” I can’t think of a better explanation of adding emotion into your writing. When you go to that place where you are or have been wounded, recount the pain, then translate the things you feel into words. That is place you are most vulnerable…the place where your heart begins to speak. When you learn to lasso that feeling and place it into words, you will move people from common to uncommon. They’ll feel your pain, understand your ache and most importantly, identify. You’ll stir something deep inside of the reader that causes a knee-jerk, gut-wrenching moment. And it will stick with them.
When I want the reader to see the heart of the character, I take myself to that place of pain or even great joy, drag out the thesaurus and search for new and unique words. It’s important to find a ways to write the “same ole’ same ole” in a new and different light.
For example: The couch was beautiful. It’s to the point. Lets the reader know the couch was pretty, but what happens when we rethink a pretty couch and add emotion? The satin printed couch dripped in elegance. The scent of her perfume resonated from the cushions. With each breath the smell of love wafted through his senses. In his mind, he could touch her hair, stroke her tender skin…hold her close once again.
Or – Her heart was broken. Add in emotion. Her heart ached. The weight of the pain pressed against her chest as she gasped for a breath…a paper heart ripped into tiny pieces and tossed into the wind. Is this what a broken heart felt like?
Emotion comes through word choice – searching out the perfect descriptive word that takes the reader to a deeper level. Taking the common and moving it to uncommon. Digging deeper into your own emotion and finding the point that aches and then pulling that emotion to the surface and learning to describe it. Emotion also comes through honesty, too. Learning to write truthfully, with passion and true concern.
The next time you write a common phrase, add emotion and then step it up a notch.
Here are a few COMMON words taken to the UNCOMMON level to get you started thinking.
Tore Ripped, Shredded, fray, rift, rupture
Broken Shattered, severed, crumbled
Fear Timidity, trembling, tremor, trepidation,angst
Cry Bawl, weep, lament, whimper
Laugh Guffaw, snicker, chuckle, titter
Blink Flutter, squint, glitter, glimmer