Writing Notes: Emotional Transfer

No video this week – blame it on my husband, and Joanne Rock’s Highly Charged!

Last week I had a scene to write that I
kept procrastinating on. I was ahead of my writing schedule, so it
wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, it was more that I knew it
had to be sort of intense on an emotional level. It was for one of my
erotic shorts, and there was nothing really physical involved – but
the psychology involved in relationships is sometimes just so complex
that it’s hard to put on the page in any kind of satisfying way.
Knowing that from the outset, I tend to freeze up for awhile trying
to write the tension between two characters (another reason I really
must have deadlines).

The day the scene was due, I waited
until the last minute to write it. All day long I was in a rather
pensive, and almost crabby mood as I mulled the scene over in my
head. I normally don’t plan much farther ahead than the next scene,
but I know where it needs to go (basically) within the structure of
the story, so I spent much of the day exploring my character’s
head-space and trying to really “feel” how she would be feeling.
At the same time, I was also sort of channeling my hero(s), and
really trying to get a feel for how all three of them would be
reacting to and feeding off of each others emotions and reactions.

This sort of “emotional transfer”
is just exhausting for me. I’m not a terribly dramatic person. Most
of the time, I’m pretty even-tempered and not really prone to
over-reactions or strong emotions. But I think to even have a chance
at approaching the kind of tension I want my characters to have, the
emotion on the page has to be very dramatic and “big”, because it
will never “read” as big as it “writes”, in my opinion (like
stage makeup has to be ridiculously thick and bright in order to look
normal to the audience in a theater).

In any case, I wrote the scene, and it
turned out pretty well, I think. Then of course I was tired and
pensive for the rest of the day, which is hard when others don’t
understand why.

Much of the difference between
cardboard characters and rounded characters boils down to emotion, in
my opinion, so understanding how each character is feeling within
their particular world view is important to be able to write that
character accurately. For me, that pretty much means crawling inside
their heads and staying for awhile, to ensure that they don’t do
what I would do, but that they move and react and speak as the
individuals that they are. Most of my characters are vastly different
than I am, so it takes a lot of energy to basically take on another
personality long enough to explore it and write it out.

The effort is well worth it, I think.
People tend to either like or hate my characters, which is good,
because that means my characters are inciting a strong reaction (one
way or the other) in the reader. I can’t please everyone, of
course, but if I can raise an emotional reaction in the majority,
I’ll have done my job.

After a particularly rough scene like
the one last week, I need downtime. Preferably in the form of a
reading binge, or barring that, a TV binge.

Do you suffer from emotional
transfer when exploring your characters’ heads? Does it run you
down? How do you combat the emotional fatigue?

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3 comments on “Writing Notes: Emotional Transfer

  1. Ardee-ann Eichelmann

    Getting into my characters heads is very draining. They have lives of their own that do not involve me and I have to work around that and the energy that they create. It is exhausting. I just plow through it when I can and then try to recover. I usually take a nap or fool around on Facebook and Twitter. I have a character that I have been trying to “crack the code” on for almost a year. So far he is winning. I haven’t given up yet. I just tuck him away and work on other things. It is not an easy job being an author. Gosh I am now tired just thinking about this issue. WHEW! Ardee-ann

  2. Brooklyn Ann

    YES! THIS!!! I always get this way with those scenes, especially in a romance when the hero and heroine are fighting.

  3. Dolly

    It is important to channel into characters’ emotions, otherwise there is no point in all the hard work.

    Enjoy your down time