Books, movies, pictures and music are all great ways to get inspired, but sometimes, you need more. You need the emotional side of the inspiration and to do that you need to draw from your own experiences.
While I was getting my masters in English, I wrote a Civil War historical fiction novella for my thesis. I had the storyline and I thought it was going well, but my professor said it lacked feeling and it needed more romance, so I tried to add “feeling.” It was good, but something was missing and then I met my future husband, Dakota, and all that changed.
My writing started to obtain that magical fluff called love and my characters’ romance blossomed as Dakota’s and my relationship became serious. Noticing a difference, my professor pulled me aside and asked me in a hushed, excited tone, “Grace, are you dating someone?” Seeing my rosy face, she giggled and said, “I could tell from your writing that you are falling in love.” My writing gave me away because I was putting in the emotional part of my inspiration. Now, I’m sure I could’ve pulled off a romantic historical fiction thesis without falling in love, but it sure did help capture the feelings of my hero and heroine.
Ways to make your characters’ emotions realistic:
Take a breath.
Oftentimes, we get so rushed to get our writing project done on time that we hyper-focus on the finish line, so much so that we risk losing that special spark of emotion and our rushed writing makes our characters come across as…rushed. So, set aside your computer and phone and go to the park or take a walk to just be quiet and take a moment to hit the reset button. Do not feel guilty for taking a break. It will help you in the long run to get in touch with emotional inspiration. You get refreshed and your writing will get refreshed.
Capture your emotions down on paper through journaling.
Think of memories and jot down how those emotions made you feel and give those same emotions to your characters. Think of how that person made you feel betrayed, hurt, angry, flattered, happy, hopeful etc. (Just be careful not to meditate on the dark thoughts as it can make you angry for real and not just for the purpose of your writing exercise.) Make it as real for your characters as it was for you and that way, you can make it believable for your readers.
Side note: this is a great time to take down your facial expressions. Did you pull on your eyebrow when you were nervous? Grind your teeth? Take those “nervous” actions and apply them to your character. If you catch the giggles while talking to your friend, did you laugh until you hiccupped? Capture those actions and make a bank of them so you can use them for the future whenever you get stuck.
Have something to write on at all times because you never know when or where you will get inspired. Now, I’m not saying you should eavesdrop or be a creeper, but if you happen to be in a coffee shop, (which is fair game, right? It should be a lesson to all the people that have super loud conversations in the presence of a writer in a coffee shop.) write down their facial expressions and interactions. Just don’t be creepy or invasive about it. That is key.
Do you have any other helpful tips on how to capture emotion?
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