The Writer’s Toolkit: Writing Authentic Character Emotions

483915Writing convincing emotions is essential to creating rich, authentic characters and scenes. It’s what adds depth to your story. Showing emotion on the movie screen is easy, but finding the right words to convey emotions in a real way can be a challenge. One resource on my reference shelf is called Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood and was first published in 1998.

The Introduction in the book explains it best. Ann Hood “. . . explores the ranges of dozens of emotions, the pitfalls in writing them and hints to writing them well. We will look at examples—good and bad—of how other writers have accomplished the task.”

The book examines 36 emotions ranging from Anger to Worry with a chapter dedicated to each one. So, when I’m not feeling particularly hostel, jealous or guilty, I can refer to the precise chapter in the book and read examples that help inspire ideas and make sure I’m not being cliche. It also reminds the writer how to move beyond just the physical descriptions but to use tension, dialog and vivid and unique descriptions to enhance the scene.

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On the flip side, showing some of the non-verbal communication can also be a great way to add emotion to scenes. Describing body language has a place in the story as long as it’s unique and insightful. Kind of like adding a clue here and there about how the character is really feeling.  The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease describes the hidden meaning behind our non-verbal gestures. Sometimes our body language is involuntary, such as crossing our arms, holding your hands behind your back or rubbing your eye. One of the best sections describes the most common gestures of liars.

So once you’re done plotting and writing the first draft, it’s time to dig deeper into the emotional truth of your characters. These two books can help writers come up with original, meaningful ways to add emotion to your story.

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