Today I have a guest post with great writing tips from the multitalented Catherine Brophy. Catherine is an Irish writer, story teller, broadcaster, teacher, lecturer and workshop facilitator. She has written four novels, numerous short stories and scripts for both film and TV. She’s at www.catherinebrophy.ie when she’s at home.
The Emotional Heart… it sounds like the title of a love story. But it’s not. It’s about writing. A really good story has an emotional heart. A feeling readers recognise and know to be true. They may not be able to explain why it’s good but they will tell their tell their friends about it. Word of mouth… the writer’s favourite kind of advertising!
So how do find the emotional heart? You find it in the hearts of your characters. And how do you find their emotions? You dig deep and discover your own. Write about things you know they tell you. And yet people write about fantasy worlds that do not exist. They write about a past they haven’t experienced. They write about people of the opposite sex, from different cultures and different lifestyles. Research will give you the facts but to be accurate about the emotional lives of your characters you have to go in. Then you really are writing about what you know.
As writers our greatest tool is ourselves, our memories, experiences, emotions and imagination. If we want to discover the emotional lives of our characters we have to explore our own.
“But I’d never behave the way I make my characters behave,” you say.
No, but deep inside, there’s a part of us that, in the right circumstances could act exactly like that.
“But how can I find that out?” you ask.
Here’s an exercise that might help.
1. Close your eyes. Imagine how your character looks. How do they hold their body? How do they hold their head? Their hands? How do they sit? How do they stand?
2. Take on that stance, that look, that way of holding yourself. Become that character.
3. Write, in the first person as though you were the character. Explain yourself and your actions. What makes you tick?
4. Notice how you feel.
This will give you invaluable information which you can use in your story. You don’t have to put it all in your story. You don’t even have to say what the emotion was. Once you know it will affect the language you use, and phrases and the rhythm of the sentences. And that’s how the reader will know.
Catherine’s latest novel, Burning Bright, is currently available on Amazon. Check out the Burning Bright video clip at http://youtu.be/oBMnfcIsQkU
This is the Method Acting part of writing. I strongly recommend it.
It’s often the most logical approaches which slip our minds most. Catherine’s advice is excellent and I’m considering having it tattooed on the back of my hands…