Have you ever tried to convey emotion in your writing, but it just seemed to fall flat? Maybe you feel as though no human being would ever feel what your characters are feeling or maybe their thoughts seem stilted and you can’t seem to find any breakthroughs.
Well, have you tried writing poetry?
“But, I’m not writing poetry; I’m writing a novel,” you say. And I respectfully disagree. All prose should be treated as poetry. Every word that goes into your manuscript should be selected with the same level of care that you would use when crafting an original poem. After all, if you’re looking to impress readers, editors, and/or agents, the ticket is great prose. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the last time any well-written fictional character said or thought exactly what they were feeling at the given moment. That list of yours will be pretty short, because good authors make their money with those short snippets of poetry that describe their characters’ journeys.
Let’s take an example from the master, William Shakespeare:
“To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.”
Now, if Shakespeare had wanted to, he could’ve made Hamlet say, “I wonder if I should kill myself,” and it would’ve served the exact same purpose. However, the reader would not have been able to realize that Hamlet wished to kill himself because he felt like he was suffering the “slings and arrows” of misfortune as well as “a sea of troubles.” These are images that readers are familiar with and clue them in to how profoundly defeated Hamlet feels in his famous soliloquy.
Am I saying that we should all write like Shakespeare? No. I’m pretty sure that the market for that kind of writing has mostly disappeared. However, I do suggest that you write poetry. Does your character have a love interest? Then write a poem about love from their point of view to get the juices flowing. Maybe you have a character that suffers from depression. Write poetry about that.
Currently, I’m starting a series on my 20lines account called the “Emotion Series,” which will be a collection of short poems on various human emotions and feelings. My first, “Hope,” can be read online at my 20lines homepage, http://en.20lines.com/JDMacGregor, where you may also read some excerpts from my novel, Blood of the Innocents, should you feel so inclined.
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