Emotional upheavals can translate to great writing
I’ve had a rather tumultuous week since I returned from Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. I started out high on beauty and serenity, natural landscapes and wildlife. I was calm, tranquil, close to meditative.
Then my sweet dog of thirteen and a half years passed away. It was downhill from there.
You know that feeling of being gut-punched, but you weren’t? Of having your throat close up but you’re not sick? Of crying during a comedy? Of laughing during a tragic drama? High one minute, low the next? Forgetting why you walked into a room? Not feeling particularly hungry one minute, but ravenous the next? In the words of C.S. Lewis:
“Grief … gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
This is grief. Grief . . . at the loss of a loved one, human or animal, or even the loss of a job, a car, a house. Not pleasant. Still, for writers, it can give us that added insight into the emotional underlay of our characters. Grief, or other intense emotions, like anger, can provide that extra dimension to boost ordinary characters into incisive, sharp, exquisite personalities. It’s hard to write what you can’t feel, or what you haven’t ever felt.
Actors practice getting into character by living or reliving these emotions and translating them into behaviors. Screaming, crying, yanking their hair out, pounding the table, running away or simply sleeping. So many ways to act out grief.
Writers must translate those same emotions into the written word. I encourage you to take these emotions and render them to words, then to sentences and scenes. How have your own experiences of these sensations, like grief, helped you bring your characters to life?