Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Emotion and revision: How to get to the emotional core

This faculty lecture by Sharon Darrow was one I knew I couldn't miss since it addresses my fatal flaw as a writer--conveying emotion.

One point she addressed several times was the stimulus response chain reaction starting with feeling (sensation and emotion) followed by thought followed by action. In first drafts it's easy (for me) to leave out characters' emotional responses to actions and events. But that's where revision comes in handy.

Characters need to respond to events based on their state of mind. So asking myself how my characters feel after something happens is going to become a new step in my revision process.

Sharon also addressed some of the obstacles writers face when trying to get to the emotional core of a character and a story. One is the author's unwillingness to experience the emotion along with the character. She suggested that it may be easier to describe emotion if authors mine their own. Authors should also have faith that they have the capacity to do it because going inside their characters and themselves is the only way (ick).

After all, Sharon says these stories are calling to us for a reason.

She suggested that in revision we re-enter the story scene by scene and show everything, even if we think we're being overly dramatic. Stay open to new discoveries.

One thing she called "technical shorthand" is another useful way to approach revision. These are flags in our writing that offer opportunities for revision, things like verb/adverb pairs, especially "-ly" adverbs, but these flags will likely be unique to each writer. We just need to learn to spot them in our own work.

Sharon said that writing may seem like a selfish activity. We shut ourselves away from people. But ultimately, she says, it's a gift of self as we each tell the stories only we can tell.


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