Posted in writing advice

Surprise Emotions

Have you ever had one of those moments where you go from sitting quietly to having tears running down your face? There is no rhyme or reason for it. Just unescapable emotion welling up inside of you before you can even acknowledge it’s existence? I hate it when it happens to me. Crying is one of my least favorite things in the universe, being surprise attacked by it even more so. Having experienced one of these moments recently, I realized that there is a lot we can learn from them. Not just in our own lives, but in the lives of the characters on the pages we read.

Unexpected emotional outbursts of any kind can serve as a window into unknown pieces of our hearts. It shines a light on feelings that have either been suppressed or ignored. Maybe you didn’t even know seeing something was important to you until it happened, and you found yourself crying in relief at the sight of it. A single tear running down a character’s face can be more powerful than a Shakespearian soliloquy when deployed correctly. Let me give you an example form something I’m working on. Paige’s hand trembled as she ran her fingers across the frayed edge of the clipping. Her chest grew tighter as image after image of her father’s scrap book danced in front of her. A shuddering breath passed her lips. Closing her eyes, she imagined her father’s smiling face beaming back at her from the edge of the arena and smiled. There is a lot going on in that passage. Now imagine what it would have looked like if Paige had just started talking about the images she was seeing or what she was feeling. “I can’t believe it,” Paige said. “He kept all of these? Every last article. Every campaign. It’s all here.” She turned to her mother, a tear making its way down her face. “He really did care. Didn’t he?” The Bard I am not, but you get the point. The exact same thing is happening in both passages, but one has significantly more impact than the other. The stillness of the moment makes everything more intense. It’s in those quiet moments when we let emotions run free that we learn the most. About our stories. About our characters. But even more so, about ourselves. What events in your life have brought up these “surprise emotions”? What did they teach you?


Writing is hard work, but it's work that I love.

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