How do you write emotional scenes? I have seen this question on social media a few times, and it has me thinking about how I feel working through my books.
My emotions tend to bleed over in both directions. The bleed is less often from my life to my stories, but if I am feeling a high level of stress, my writing becomes more scattered. A common way it presents is by me missing my word goals by becoming unfocused and easily distracted as I’m pulled in a million directions at once or simply want to be done with all things computer for a while. High stress or distraction can also hinder the “good bleed” from the story to me, making it more difficult to relate to and feel my characters’ emotions.
There are scenes in each of my books that have strongly resonated with me as I wrote them. I chuckled in giddy delight at some clever quip a character made. I cried with them over a devastating loss. Feeling those emotions with them helps me articulate the moment, to put into words everything they are going through to help the reader experience it with them.
I’m close to the end of the last book (first draft) in the Hidden Series, and I’m feeling a little emotionally numb. So are my characters. There has been so much effort and coordination, so many reunions tempered by loss. One way or another, the end is near. They need and want this so much, but the event itself is difficult to speak about because even a victory is unlikely to end well.
How do you keep going when you’re exhausted and drained? How do you move forward when every step spells the death of another friend? How do you overcome your terror when failure means destruction?
You go a little numb. You chip away at your sanity and hope what remains at the end is still a person. You pack it away and do what needs to be done, hoping your ability to make rational decisions has not become compromised.
So, that’s how I write emotional scenes. I get into the same frame of mind and feel at least a fraction of what I imagine my characters are going through. I laugh with them and cry with them. Then, when I’m polishing that first draft, I look for where the emotional bleed pulled me far off track, and I buff out the rough edges. In the end, I hope you also relate to my characters enough to laugh and cry with them too, because I put them through the wringer.