Saturday, March 18, 2017

Emotional Involvement in a Story

This month's topic was suggested by Dr. Bob. It asks if writers are ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are characters to a writer?

This brings to mind the beginning of the movie Romancing the Stone, where author Joan Wilder (played by Kathleen Turner) is bawling because she has finished her book with a very emotional final scene.

While I've read books that brought me to tears, it hasn’t happened while I write.

For me, no simple answer exists for this question, because I’ve learned that while authors work in many similar ways, the way they work also diverges in even more ways. However, I believe that for most writers to create main characters who seem real to the reader, they must be real to the writer. This has its own inherent problems because if other writers are like me, they must often wonder (and fear) if their characters are too much alike because they come from the same imagination.

For me, if I invest time in creating a character — and I have a system I hope will create different but real characters — they still all start out as invented beings. Eventually, as the story evolves they become very real because like any friend, I've spent time with them. The process of story creation involves stressing out the characters which involves creating situations that evoke emotion. The more the characters endure emotional turmoil, the more effect it has on how the reader feels. Their emotional reaction helps keep them reading. 

Yet, when I am writing a scene, no matter what the situation or the emotions involved, I am usually more in an analytical frame of mind rather than emotionally involved. I'm interested in getting things right. Later, when I’m rehashing drafts and involved in finding words that best convey the emotion or message that I want make is when I can get emotional. Can it be exhausting? Not really, finishing a scene for me is more of a relief, elation even. Later, after time has divorced me from the creation, I can reread a book and sense the emotion. At that time I’m usually glad it happened because I feel it might also affect the reader.

Please visit these blogs for more viewpoints on this topic:
Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland
Judith Copek
A.J. Maguire
Rachael Kosinski
Dr. Bob Rich
Heather Haven
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines 
Kay Layton Sisk 
Diane Bator
Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax


  1. I can appreciate your comment about worrying that the characters might be too much alike. I have that problem with my heroes especially. I want to fall in love with them first so I write them as men I could love. I am going to have to challenge myself and write a hero I wouldn't fall in love with some day.

  2. I spend a lot of time getting things right, too, in my first draft. A lot of this is because I don't want to revise. It both slows me down and saves me time. LOL Although, after reading all of these posts, I realize I need to be less perfectionist and more in the moment. :)

    Thanks for organizing this, Rhobin. ;)

  3. I think we all do our 'homework' on our characters, but we are often taken by surprise when they do things we don't expect. One of my characters climbed out of a window, something I'd never do myself as I have no head for heights!

  4. That's an interesting point about whether our characters become too alike. It's something I have noticed when reading prolific authors. Something to be aware of in my own writing.
    Thanks for the great post!

  5. I was interested in how you are analytical when writing the first draft and more "emotional" going over the story later. Good thought that writers are perhaps different in more ways than they are the same. For sure we do not want to read the same book over and over again. :)

  6. Rhobin, as Helen mentioned: That's an interesting point about whether our characters become too alike. It's something I have noticed when reading prolific authors. I see we both are Romancing the Stone fans :-). I enjoyed your post.

  7. Very interesting! I had no idea that you were more of analytical writer, but then, why not? I sometimes hover between the two but more often than not, I'm deeply involved. That's why I have to be careful the subject matter! Thanks for an insight into your mind as a writer.

  8. Hi Rhobin, It's a strong point about whether our characters merge over time. I'm currently working on a below stairs novel and finding it really hard to embed the necessary humility when I'm so used to feistiness. Once or twice I have had a wee tear in the corner of my eye when finishing a scene. Must be good. anne stenhouse

  9. Possibly, being analytical in your writing goes with science fiction, when your created reality has so many facts to keep track of.
    I am the other way. When I create the reality, including its denizens, things flow. It's when a re-read it that I may cut entire scenes, change action, find new people to do something necessary, put things in a different order.

  10. Interesting post because I've also bee concerned my characters might become too much alike. And that's also how my characters start out -as invented beings. And as I get know them and write them, they become very real, because like any friend, I've spent time with them.