Conference 2012 - Packing that punch – increase your emotional depth
Report published 21 July 2012
I was quite tired by the time I attended Cathy Wade’s session on Sunday afternoon, but my lethargy departed quickly as soon as Cathy began speaking. “A romance novel is all about emotion, emotion, emotion,” said Cathy. “The emotional journey of the heroine to the love of her life.” She explained how creating strong emotions in our readers leads to satisfied customers who will want to read more of our books. I loved how she views readers as sadists who like the characters to suffer before finding their happy ending.
A good book starts with characters and we were encouraged to examine the motivations behind the actions of our characters so that they could be given real believable emotions. Add conflict with consequences to the mix and you have the basis for a novel. We need to understand why the conflict affects our characters and to be able to imagine ourselves in their shoes to make it all work.
She recommended that we allow each emotion its full moment in the spotlight, attaching fewer but stronger emotions to our plotlines. Powerful emotions don’t go away, so we need to build on them and show the after effects. Readers should feel that they are in the scene and not be aware that they are reading a book at all.
Every movement should reflect the character’s state of mind and whether they are showing or hiding the emotion affecting them at the time.
Cathy encouraged us to get deep down into the emotion of our characters to understand what we are trying to portray and make it more authentic. “If you are writing it properly,” she said. “It will take it out of you.” We were asked to think about how to express love without overtly stating it and to ponder how many different reasons there are for having sex!
The eyes are key in expressing emotion. She got us to shout out a list of emotions and then to pick one to work on for ourselves. We had to imagine how we would feel inside if we were experiencing the emotion, what would be visible outside, how things would change if we were trying to conceal the feeling and how the emotion would be reflected in our speech. Her main message was to keep the emotions simple, but to dig deeply into them. Keep asking why the character is feeling like that until you get to the core of the emotion.
Scenes are most powerful if you are writing from the point of view of the character with the most to lose in the scene. Cathy advised us to be careful we are not just portraying the emotion to the reader and not to the other characters involved.
Cathy was very generous with hand outs and even gave us homework exercises to deepen our understanding. This session was very thought provoking and definitely ‘packed that punch.’
Written by Jayne Hall.