Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Praise of Being Emotional

Yesterday on The Literary Lab (a fine blog I've mentioned before), Davin posted about a concept he called "writing naked."

Now, that doesn't mean literally writing naked. If you do that's fine ... I don't judge. What it does mean is that you're allowing your emotions to show through in your writing. This is, in fact, a state any good writer should strive for in their story.

Why is that? Well, Our Pal In Maine (Stephen King) once said that he writes things that frighten him. That's why his books have gotten progressively darker. As he explores his own fears, fewer and fewer things scare him. So he writes thing darker to frighten himself yet again.

I submit that we should attempt to do the same thing for all our emotions. If we're aiming for our characters to be angry, think about the situation in terms of what would make your own blood boil. If we're aiming for sad, grieving, happy, entertained -- take your pick -- we should try to elicit those emotions in ourselves as we're writing. Otherwise what's the point?

If we can't affect our own feelings, then we will be unable, I feel, to affect the feelings of others. Your thoughts?


L. T. Host said...


Sorry, thanks to Nathan I have zombies on the (haha) brain today.

Um, yeah, I completely agree, in fact. The parts of my novels that make me emotional are the same parts that make my reader emotional. And if I feel while I'm writing, I have more to draw from to make my reader feel, too.

Davin Malasarn said...

It's the strangest thing, but I think readers can just pick up on sincere emotions over artificial ones. Even if we, as writers, wanted to just make up emotions, I bet it wouldn't work, or at least it wouldn't be as powerful.

What you say about Stephen King makes a lot of sense. I find that I write about people I don't understand, and in a way that's an exploration of fear as well.

Susan R. Mills said...

Writing naked? Hmm...I've never tried that. My family would die! :)

I agree with you on this, but it's hard to do sometimes. I think it's when I stop being myself and start writing what I think will please others. I'm going to be thinking about this. Great post!

Joshua McCune said...

Guess it doesn't help that I'm an emotional iceberg (or, as I prefer to call it, a borderline sociopath -- sounds much cooler :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

One of the scenes in my book that is most moving is one that made me cry as I wrote it. And as I edited it. If I wasn't a mother it wouldn't have rung as true- I reached deep to write that one. And I think it worked.

Adam Heine said...

That's a good point. There's one point in Air Pirates where an important character dies. Multiple beta readers have said they hate that part (in a sad way, not because I wrote it bad), and I always reply that I hate it too, because I love that character.

But because I hate that part so much, the reaction of the dead character's friend is strong because it's real to me.

Amalia Dillin said...

While doing revisions, I found myself getting choked up and teary eyed writing a scene that I had already written once, and knew what came after--that is, that it wasn't as bad as all that-- but I was totally caught up with it, emotionally. It was an incredible and satisfying experience, and I hope to have many more. Bonus points for the fact that it's a sign I'm on the right track, right?