Sunday, March 30, 2008

Action and Emotion

Yesterday, I raked more leaves fallen last autumn (from the neighbors 'trees) and filled eleven--eleven--trash bags. And that's just from one side of the house. Some people rake yards during the fall; here, with so many trees that sometimes hold their leaves for a long time, such an exercise is futile. I tend to rake during late winter/early spring.

Meantime, despite all that exercise, which often leads to more creativity in the writing process, I've hit a wall. How do I convey great emotion and intense inner conflict without explaining it? Without being over the top and melodramatic and all the things I hate about lazy writing? Actions should speak for themselves, should reveal the subtext, no explanation necessary.


Eaglewing said...

Kudos on the raking project. That's a lot of leaves.

Ah yes, the conundrum of getting across the emotion without the melodrama. That's one great thing about comics and movies - a look or facial expression or action can do more than 2 pages of writing, but when only using written words, how does one do it succinctly? Still, sometimes you just have to trust the reader will understand what the action means. Hard to do though. Good luck.



I've been staring at the rough draft on paper and at the typed draft on the computer screen for about two hours, and have succeeded in removing three paragraphs and adding only five sentences. Progress, but slogging progress.

Scriptorius Rex said...

"Her emotions swirled about like too many leaves in too small a yard."



Sounds like a line from a 1940's detective novel.

A few years ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Sam Spade and others of his ilk, and had a blast. I'm considering a few other short stories in the same vein.

The Texican said...

Rent a chainsaw. When the neighbors are away, cut off all the offending limbs you can find. Next year - No raking. No shade either. Raking and pushing a hand mower - move over Charles Atlas. No more kicking sand in my face.


Hmmmm. (stroking chin) A chainsaw...

Actually, I've been known to toss limbs (which also fall into the yard) back over the fence. Probably not the most neighborly behavior, but--on both sides of the house--the trees are encroaching on my roof. I probably WILL need the chainsaw in a year or so.

Mark Goodyear said...

In Texas, the live oaks shed their leaves in Spring. Weird. In fall, the leaves turn sort of gray green. Dead but not fallen.

About conveying emotion and internal conflict... that's where I wish I understood psychology. One thing I often do is study a master. If I want to write some good minimalist violence, I check the Road. If I need childhood joy, I check Harry Potter. That sort of thing. Every good book we read is a textbook on the craft.


Amen to that. There are a few writers who are the "go to" instructors when I need a reminder about how to construct a character or fashion dialogue.

The adage that practice makes perfect only works if the practice itself is an actual striving toward perfect. If the practice is sloppy, well, the results will be sloppy.

But, I admit, there are books I read--and stuff I write--not because it is High Literature, but simply because it is fun.

Eamon said...


Difficult one. Just an idea (might be totally wrong) but I think that with difficult writing like this you need to focus even more on keeping sentences short (and uncluttered) and use as many verbs as you can (verbs keep - I think - some punch and discipline to the very subjective nature of the emotional life). Everyone is different with a different syle, though.
I think that you probably have to experiment a bit. Perhaps you could try this and see how you get on (I don't know - I am not a professional writer or even a near-professional writer but hope this is of some use ..).

Good luck!


Thanks, Eamon.

I'm working on a couple different scenes. In one, a young man with no family is watching how a woodcutter handles all the questions (and imitation) from his six-year-old son.

In the other, a man and a woman, who to all eyes should have no impediments to pursuing a relationship now that she's escaped crazy daddy and his evil minions, simply will not take that step. Neither have been in that place before, and they don't know what to do--but other people are full of advice.

See? Kinda sticky stuff. Don't want to be all maudlin about it.