IWSG 78: Emotions Feed My Scenes


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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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CO-HOSTS

  Pat Garcia | Sylvia Ney | Liesbet @ Roaming About | Cathrina Constantine | Natalie Aguirre

OPTIONAL IWSG DAY QUESTION:

Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Like most of the IWSG questions, I had to give this one a long think.

I can’t say that my writing has to do with a time of year, or season, or even what the weather is doing on a specific day.

I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes my history with all its demons kicks my behind and I can’t seem to make it stop. Or I couldn’t, until I discovered that every event that haunted me could enhance my writing.

It didn’t matter what emotion bounced around my head; there was a perfect scene it could feed. I remember the fear of the unknown when I left home, the excitement of making my own decisions and later discovering that with freedom came consequences.

I look back at how naïve I was. That one weird memory I’m not sure I even remember correctly. It’s been 40+ years.

But why I write is about me and Why someone would read my work is another thing completely

So I dove into research again.

Overly emotional scenes

Apparently when writing an emotionally charged scene, going too deep can make some readers uncomfortable. I can confirm this because when I can’t cope with what’s on the page, I skip ahead.

OR Skipping Scenes

Swinging the other way is just as bad. Anticipation rises mercilessly, then the huge emotional moment  about to happen, and for some reason only known to the writer, they skip forward to after the event.

Has the reader been robbed? I don’t know. I noticed that in the Game of Thrones series that some—not all but some—of the bigger plot points on-screen were skipped in the books. My choice was taken away on the page. Although the characters discussed the turn of events to fill in me in, I missed the experience. Some scenes were pretty gross, so maybe it was a blessing.

What I discovered during my reading was, there is a safe zone. Getting feedback will save us from the extremes, and apparently that is what most readers want. They want to feel connected to the MC, enjoy the shared journey, but not be overwhelmed or feel left out.

What do you think? Is there a line that should never be crossed?

Gleaned from:

69 responses to “IWSG 78: Emotions Feed My Scenes

  1. What a gift, the ability to connect and transfer the past to the page. I think skipping forward and using recall is a let down. As you say, we’ll never know.
    I’ve recently learned Show, allows the reader to engage their imagination. I guess, I’m the last writer on the planet to realize when I write, “she stamped her foot” the reader has to use their imagination to figure how why she stamped her foot.
    Yup, I want to connect with the MC…and skip the gory parts.
    Great post.
    Happy holidays!
    Lynn La Vita blog: Writers Supporting Writers

    • As Mr Monk would say, “It’s a blessing and a curse.”

      Hint if you need one: Each time you revise add a little of the MC’s depth. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you. 😉

  2. That’s great how you can draw on your emotions in your writing but are learning how to do it a way that’s not too intense for readers.

  3. I never thought about that line of too much or not enough. In reading submissions, I see a lot that don’t delve into it enough. The result is very vanilla.

  4. I’m still pretty bad when it comes to writing emotional scenes, but I think I’m getting better. I used to drag the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions without giving them any options about what to feel. After seeing how other writers do it, I’ve learned it’s best to give some of the high and low points and then let the reader decide the emotion themselves. I’ve still got a lot to learn, however.

  5. Hi,
    I don’t want my readers to be offended but I want main characters that my readers can feel for. My books are multicultural and romance with a mainstream touch and they are inspirational. So I have to watch how my characters bring their points across. But I don’t think you will be able to please everyone.
    Take care and have a Merry Christmas and a safe passage into 2021.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    • Happy Holidays!

      No. Trying to please everyone would kill any manuscript. Being true to fleshed out characters is a great way to inspire your readers, I’m sure. 🙂

  6. As a romance writer I have to tap into my emotions quite often. I also have the issue of being a mood writer so if my head isn’t in the right space I can’t tap in as I need to get the words done. It’s all a balance for me.

  7. I like when writers are able to make me feel something – even the negative feelings – so strongly. I try to do that for my readers. To me, it’s a kind of magic. 🙂

  8. My history and memories and experiences always sneak into my stories in one way or another. If we can’t use that for our own books, then what’s the point? 🙂

  9. Interesting!
    I’ve been known to skip scenes when reading because the emotion is too much. Watching TV/movies too. I want. emotion, but I don’t want to be gutted.

  10. Emotions are my downfall. Many of my characters have inappropriately unconcerned responses to situations that they really should be expressing concern about. But I can’t recognize when those situations should be because I approach real life in the same way–a smile on my lips and a possibly flippant dismissal, because if I let myself dwell, I’m going to spiral. (I don’t handle pressure well.) So I rely on my critique group to tell me if there’s enough emotion or where the disconnect is happening. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of writing anything too deep, but I will have to examine my work for those places where I might be skipping over stuff.

  11. I noticed the same thing you have: some writers skip the pivotal scenes, that are supposed to be charged with emotions, and just mention them in a summary later. I think it comes from being afraid. Those writers can’t face their own emotional depth and can’t allow themselves to open up to their readers to such a profound degree. They feel safer to avoid such moments in their writing. I don’t think they ever consider how it makes their readers feel.
    Personally, I try not to skip such scenes in my writing, even if those scenes could make someone uncomfortable.

  12. You can’t please every reader, just yourself. Write for yourself first. I hope you are able to enjoy the holidays, and some writing time. Merry Christmas!

  13. It is definitely a must to connect with characters but yeah, we don’t always need to long drawn out too descriptive scenes either. I like using my imagination to an extent.

  14. I agree with you, if scenes get too uncomfortable in written word. I too tend to skip the pages.

  15. Writing those deeply emotional scenes can take a lot out of the author, but I agree–the reader will feel cheated if we skip over a major growth/turning point for the characters.

  16. My enjoyment of a book largely depends on how emotionally invested I feel in a character, so in my book, the bigger the emotions, the better. I guess there’s an exception for emotional scenes that feel contrived. There needs to be an emotional connection that is genuine.

  17. I’m a big skipper. I reached an age and read enough books that I want to enjoy the words on the page. Too many authors have the idea that wallowing in negative emotion is “real.” Sure, set a tone, show some growth, make a point, fine. But too much and it starts to sound like the person we all know who loves their misery just a little to much and we can’t wait to get away from.

  18. Interesting! I hadn’t really considered it from this angle. But, yes, the emotions of it definitely affect my ability/efficiency at writing at times!@samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

  19. I think the line is independent to the reader. I do know some readers who really like deeper graphic scenes than I choose to read or write. Good post today Anna 🙂

  20. Adrienne Reiter

    I write noir mystery, so graphic emotional scenes come with the territory. It’s an acquired taste to say the least. Great post. Happy IWSG!

  21. Anna, You always have the most interesting questions! I feel like it depends? I think there are some audiences which are going to be like Graphic Everything!! And others where they would rather hear about how the characters feel deep down inside. I like a balance, nothing too graphic but action above characters thoughts. I’m a big fan of J/YA fantasy, cozy mysteries, stuff like that. Most of my favorite authors know how to do a tightly-written plot that shows you character development through action. I love that….

  22. I’m probably the only person in the universe who hasn’t seen GoT. Some graphic scenes in movies or TV are best not in the books. I wouldn’t get the image out of my mind. Hope you have wonderful holidays.

  23. A fascinating post and ideas I never thought of, that my own inner self would inhibit writing and fully developing scenes. So, perhaps part of your post is useful for me to push myself more into bringing the reader into my stories . . . and perhaps when I read, understanding more why I want to jump ahead to the next part. Maybe that’s another reason why some readers are drawn to some writers and not others. Very thoughtful. Thank you! And thank you for visiting my blog post this month!

  24. My writing productivity has little to do with the time of year and more to what sort of stressful things are going in on my life.

  25. That’s interesting. If I’m watching a show or movie based on a book, and there’s a scene that wasn’t in the book, I’m usually displeased. (HP GoF did that several times.) Especially because it tends to mean there’s less screen time for scenes that actually were in the book. But maybe I connect more to the story on the whole instead of a character? I never really thought about it before.

  26. I’m so glad you wrote this. I often skip reading scene when they’re too disturbing for me. I feel as if I’ve somehow not done my job as a reader, but from my experience, I won’t sleep if I’ve just read something so graphic I can’t put them aside.

    Here’s to a wonder Christmas, Anna. See you again in 2021.

  27. I think that’s where beta readers play an important role – to (help) figure out what should stay and what should go. Where the line should be drawn… An insightful post, Anna!

  28. I skip ahead, too. But when I had to write a home-invasion scene that creeped me out, I wrote it fast and furious. I understood the scene was essential to the story. It explained so much. It was what drove my character. It’s been too long now, but I bet my beta readers had me tighten a lot. I always have to tighten.

    • There is no choice with a necessary scene. That was my point with the writer’s that skip them. I don’t get it UNLESS it is so offensive they can’t keep it without alienating their readers. 🙂

  29. I like emotional rides, as a reader and as a writer. I also use my personal emotions to carve out those of my characters.

  30. This is an interesting conundrum. I think it explains why I “connect” with certain author’s writing styles (and thus become a fan) and why I sometimes don’t. The authors who focus on and bring me through the scenes I want to be a part of anyway are the ones I love. The authors who skip/place focus on parts I’m not as interested in tend to be the ones I try reading, say I wasn’t feeling the story, and never try again. And this is entirely personal preference, and has pretty much nothing to do with that author’s actual skill. I just never thought about it from this perspective before!

  31. Yes, absolutely. You raise a very good point, Anna. I think we owe it to our readers to take care of them and not leave them scarred for life. You owe it to them to deliver on promises too.

  32. Thank you, that was terribly useful. In life I tend to be an all or nothing person with my feelings/experiences, so am having to learn about nuance for writing fiction.

  33. I do like letting some events occur off stage. I think it helps build the impression that there’s more going on in this world than just this one story. But if we’re talking about major plot points that my characters are actually involved in, then I wouldn’t cut away from that.

  34. As a reader and writer the line I won’t cross is abuse/crimes/violence against women and children. I’ll skip, drop or won’t pick up any books that has this. Maybe if it happened before the story began and if the past rears up to mess with their present. But detailed specifics of it…NO.

    I try to touch only a little bit through their characterization as how it’s shaped them as people in my own writing. The details are in their backstory.

    • That’s where details like those belong–in a scene off-stage and/or long ago. We know they are out there and I for one don’t need reminding when I’m looking to be entertained. 🙂

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