I was there!

I spent a delightful evening with my readers this past week at an event graciously hosted by Strafford Wellness Massage in Rochester, New Hampshire.

The discussion was lively and one question in particular was asked that I thought I’d comment on here, because it's been asked before.

It was, “I felt like I was a part of the story. It was as if I was in the scene, feeling what the characters felt. How do you do it? Do you feel the emotion as you write?”

This is what a writer dreams of hearing!

My answer was, “Yes, absolutely! If I can't feel the emotion, how can I describe it to you?"

I am what I’ve heard called a "video-writer." Scenes unfold in my mind like a movie. The trick is to describe the scenes in words that will let the reader visualize them, too. Of course the characters have to be realistic and their emotions genuine in order for the reader to identify with them.

So, back to the question, “How do I do this?”

By doing two things. I try to give the reader just enough detail to engage their imagination and to emotionally identify with the characters. If I am successful, you the reader will allow yourself to be in the scene. It's human nature.

How much detail? That depends. If an enraged woman has just discovered her husband’s infidelity, I may need to go into a little more detail than if my stoic Penobscot Indian has just been told his cabin burned down. In other words, the body language as well as the dialogue must be appropriate to the character’s personality.

Once I've crawled into the mind of the character, it’s not so difficult to wrap myself in the emotions and the body language that accompanies them. Again, not every detail is revealed, but a mere mention of an action will evoke the video response.

And about that body language... you can observe it anywhere. Have you ever watched a couple in a restaurant? It's not too hard to tell how comfortable they are with each other simply by studying their body language. Do they lean into each other as they speak, careful to maintain eye contact, or are they seated comfortably, leaning back with their arms outstretched in front of them?

In order to find the right balance, I often try on the body language and facial expressions that occur during a piece of dialogue. Would she dismiss someone by sweeping her arm around this way, I think to myself as I demonstrate the action. Would he have cocked his head to the right or left? What kind of frown would that comment elicit? Can you capitalize on the frown by describing a facial feature, like caterpillar eyebrows?

It may be quite funny to watch, as my husband will tell you, but I must practice my body language in order to make my scenes immediate. My readers tell me it works, so I'll continue to give my husband something to laugh about when he catches me trying out my new moves.

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