Projecting Your Feelings

In Alex & Emma, one of my favorite writing-related movies, the author starts describing a character falling asleep as he himself nods off on the couch.  Tonight I want to follow his example, writing about a character who is sore or exhausted because I am worn out and there is nothing but ache from my hips to the floor.

I know that when I am feeling an emotion, be it frustration or pleasure, pain or joy, it becomes easier to work on scenes where my characters are feeling the same.  Sometimes interactions or conversations develop that I hadn’t planned, as my life leaks into theirs.  In reverse, I can also sometimes pull feelings from my characters; if I develop a section with a character in a good mood or an unhappy one, I sometimes find myself mirroring the same at the completion of that portion of the story.

Perhaps this doesn’t apply to all writers.  After all, not everyone is character-driven like me.  If you are a writer, does this happen to you?  I’d especially be interested in this from any plot-driven folks out there, since it’s always fun to learn more about how other people experience the world.  (It makes you a better writer!)


Writing for Myself

Sometimes your writing shouldn’t be shared with others.

Occasionally I get worked up, emotions running high.  Sometimes I call my mom, sometimes I dance, but lately there has been a lot of writing.  When I’m creating a story and a scene gets stuck in my head, I write it out and it leaves me alone.  The same thing happens when I put my rants on paper.

For example, I recently had to sit on an airplane near a couple of people who were discussing politics.  That’s probably not the best way to describe it; they were making snide, obnoxious comments about the candidate I support, loud enough that most of the people around them could hear.  In my opinion, that’s not a very nice way to behave around a large group of people.  Regardless, it ended up getting me very fired up.  Flying already puts me in a grumpy mood, and that just put it over the top.  So when I was sitting in the airport on the next layover, I pulled out my notebook and wrote.  The ink is thick, the pressure is heavy, and it covers two pages.

Clearly, that is writing that shouldn’t ever see the light of day.  Fortunately, it got the irritation out and served its purpose, whether or not it was writing for others.  This was writing for me.


Music seems to enhance or echo my mood, especially when I am feeling particularly strong emotions.  Tonight, for example, I went to my go-to song for melancholy.  (It’s Breathe Again by Sara Bareilles.)

Why am I feeling melancholy?  Well, the process of uprooting and moving to another state is one of mixed emotions.  One minute I’m excited about the adventure and ready to get underway.  The next, I’m stressed about everything that is still up in the air or incomplete.  (I don’t yet have an apartment, or a way to move my stuff.  Stress, anyone?)  Every once in a while, I get a quick wave of panic, where my brain says, “I’m not ready for this!” although those are coming less and less and leaving more rapidly every time.

Tonight, the mood is melancholy.  This is one of the evenings to reflect not on the things I am gaining, but the things I am leaving behind.  I like Houston (most of the time) and the place where I work (ibid).  I have an amazing group of coworkers and friends that I will be parting from, including a guy that I enjoyed dating.  Most strongly comes the sadness, though, when I think about leaving my best friend behind.

Now, the rational part of my brain points out that friendships tend to weather distance better than romantic relationships.  Skype and Facebook and texting and cell phones make distance a moot point, as do vacation days and airplanes.  Still, we hang out almost every day.  Somehow I fear technology won’t be quite the same.

Tomorrow, perhaps, excitement and anticipation, but for tonight, melancholy.

When to Keep Words to Yourself

I am fairly eloquent when I am upset, especially when I am by myself.

When something makes me angry, or hurt, or just worked up, I am known to respond by arguing loudly with myself in the mirror.  I’ve written some really interesting letters when upset, too.  Finding the words, getting my thoughts out, are not a challenge for me.

Fortunately, I also know when not to share those thoughts.

Sometimes, the exact perfect words for a situation are not acceptable to say to the person they are really for.  Perhaps the person that you are unhappy with is a supervisor, or a coworker, or even someone you care about.  You have to know when to say the things you want to say, and when they would just make things worse.  These are great times for letters, or for venting those feelings to a close-mouthed friend, because sometimes the perfect words are only perfect for escalating the situation rather than resolving it.

Of course, if the situation is in a work of fiction, sometimes escalation is exactly what you are looking for!

Painfully Awkward Moments

You know those awkward moments in movies and books?  The scenes where someone is failing spectacularly in a social situation?

I hate those scenes.

They make me cringe and want to look away.  In my favorite movies, I fast-forward through them.  In books, I skip them.  I haven’t really written anything like that, probably because I don’t like them.

I know that there are reasons for setting characters up to fail.  I’ve even done it a time or two.  It helps develop who they are for the reader, as well as building their character (for lack of a better word) for future adventures.  This type of social failure doesn’t occur to me when I’m writing, which is probably a good thing.  It makes me uncomfortable just to watch or read, and as I feel what my characters feel, I imagine that writing something like that would be very unpleasant.

How do you react to awkward moments, on the screen or in books?

Picking Fights

The two main characters in Dragon Pendant fight with each other.  They fight a lot, actually.  It’s an important part of the dynamics in their relationship.  There are little disagreements, there are landmark battles, and in several cases these are key plot moments.  Writing arguments is easy; I’ve had my fair share of knock-down, drag-out screaming matches in my day, not to mention the multitude that I’ve imagined having with people who I can’t actually yell at.   The tricky part is setting up the fight.

Think about the last argument you had with someone.  You can remember the fighting part, right?  The yelling, the crying, whatever it was, but it’s hard to remember the build-up.  How did it escalate?  What little comment or gesture started it off?  I can start some scenes mid-spat, but sometimes I have to grow a fight.  It helps to see those interactions between the two, as well.

I’ve been picking fights between the characters for the last couple of days.  It’s a lot of negative energy, but I love the interplay between these two.

Writing Practice

The water gently fell on her head, her hair muting the impact of each stream.  The sound of the falling water echoed from inside her head and outside her ears.  She reveled in the cascade of warmth that fell across her shoulders, the torrent splitting and splitting again into tiny rivulets all across her body.  The enclosed space gave her a feeling of solitude, a place to reflect.

After a few moments, she set about the business of bathing, scrubbing hair, soaping skin, her mind meandering through her day.  Cleansed, she increased the heat of the water and paused to simply soak in the warmth.

Quiet, her mind adrift, she released the tight hold she had kept on her emotions through the day.  Unbidden, a tide rose and brought tears to her eyes.  She let them fall, let the sadness well up and wash over her cheeks as the water washed her skin.  She stayed still, allowing her feelings full control for a minute, two.  Eventually the tears slowed and the water cooled.  She waited a single moment more, collecting herself, before turning off the water and reaching for a towel.

Her sadness had dissipated, released by her tears.  She stepped from the shower, her place of solitude, clean and lighter of heart.

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