Writing Emotions VISUALLY - Chapter 1

Home » Writing » Writing Emotions VISUALLY » Chapter 1

Your OC has discovered a magical portal to an underwater world. Participate for 60XP

Writing Emotions VISUALLY

by OokamiKasumi

Libraries: Writing Tutorials

Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)

Updated on

Visual writing is when the reader can SEE your story unfolding in their imaginations just like a movie. Non-visual: It was a dreary day. Visual: Icy rain slithered down the window glass from an iron gray sky. This is more commonly known as SHOWING vs. TELLING. Telling: It was a dreary day. Showing: Icy rain slithered down the window glass from an iron gray sky.

Writing Emotions VISUALLY

Writing Emotions VISUALLY

"What is ...VISUAL writing?"
Visual writing is when the reader can SEE your story unfolding in their imaginations just like a movie.

* Non-visual: It was a dreary day.
* Visual: Icy rain slithered down the window glass from an iron gray sky.

This is more commonly known as SHOWING vs. TELLING.

* Telling: It was a dreary day.
* Showing: Icy rain slithered down the window glass from an iron gray sky.

"What's wrong with just...Telling them?"


The problem lies with Reader interpretation. Abstract (poetic) words and ideas rely on the readers' interpretation of what those words mean to them personally.

For example:


She was woefully depressed.



* How does Big Bird act when he's woefully depressed?

* How do YOU act when you're woefully depressed?

Is there a difference?


Well yeah, birds molt. They lose all their feathers when they're depressed. When you were woefully depressed, did you lose all your feathers? (Do you have feathers?)


If your definitions of those feelings don't match with the reader's definitions -- you're screwed. In other words, the moment you and the reader come to a strong enough 'difference of opinion', they'll stop reading and put your story down, never to pick it up again. Do it too much and the reader will stop reading ANYTHING by you.

Think I'm exaggerating?


Get on one of the book/author fan-lists and ASK. (I did.)


So, how do you SHOW emotions in writing?


According to Dianna Dorisi-Winget in "Let's Get Physical!":


"... fiction writers must employ description that accurately expresses a character's feelings."


She's not talking about flowery, sentimental, poetic words, AKA: purple prose, she means describe the physical characteristics of the emotion you're trying to convey.


How does one DESCRIBE feelings and emotions?

Emotions appear as Body Language. Describing an emotion is as simple as describing the character's body language in addition to describing what they feel physically and mentally. Don't say: "she was sad," describe the way her tears feel as they run down her cheeks, and the way her heart feels in her chest.


According to James Scott Bell in his article "Leave Them With Hope":


"...the author must experience the emotion and describe (the emotion felt) with all five senses, write it as he "feels" it.”


Dorisi-Winget says:

"The trick is tapping into your 'emotion memory.' Get beyond the pounding heart and clenched fist."


Emotion Memory is simply remembering how you felt when you were experiencing the emotion your character is going through.

Let's go back to Depression...


Do you remember what you felt like physically when you were depressed? That's what you write. Now consider what depression looks like... What did you do when you were depressed?


Hold that thought because THIS is where characterization gets tricky!


While depression pretty much feels the same for everyone, how people react to it is another whole bowl of kimchee.

Depression affects different people very differently. Some get very quiet, some get violent and hurt others, (picking fights,) some only hurt themselves, (cutting). Some eat a lot of food, some stop eating altogether. Some throw loud temper tantrums, yelling at anything that gets too close, and others refuse to say even one word.

How would YOUR character react? Describe the feelings AND the actions. Show them being depressed in all their torrid glory.

Don't TELL it:


She was woefully depressed.

SHOW it:


She leaned to one side against the wall with her shoulders slumped, staring at nothing at all. Her eyes burned with tears that wouldn't fall. Every beat of her heart seemed to take more effort than it was worth, but somehow, it just kept beating. She was long past pain and well into numb. If only she could stay there, and never feel anything at all, ever again.



Believe it or not, TELLING the reader what the character is feeling is not nearly as effective or powerful as SHOWING them.



* Write a scene where you tell what the character is feeling and doing using as many flowery words as you can.

* Write the same scene describing what the character is doing and feeling.


By the way, it's perfectly okay to use one or two flowery decorative words in addition to your physical descriptions, and in Dialogue -- internally, or out loud. When used to flavor descriptions, it gives what you are describing emotional impact. When used in Dialogue, it gives your characters flavor.


* Hand both versions to your beta readers and see what they think.



Looking for a Cheater's Guide to the physical characteristics of emotions?

The Non-Verbal Thesaurus

More on Writing Emotions?

Emotion: The Bite That Hangs On

The following is for those looking to get published.
If you're just writing for fun and not profit, feel free to skip this part.


Is this advice Cramping your LITERARY STYLE...?

"What about all those flowery literary phrases that everybody else uses?"
AKA: "But Anne Rice does it, why can't I?"


Who is everybody else? Are they alive and still publishing books, or dead?


Once upon a time, literary writing was how one got published, so naturally that's what they teach in college. I got news for all you literary students going to class to become fiction authors: Euphemistic and/or literary writing is all well and fine in Creative Writing and Fan-Fiction, but that won't get you published any more.


Keep in mind, I'm talking BOOK publishers, not magazines or anthology publications that will only pay you $100.00 flat fee and No Royalties. Hell, even the EBook publishers won't take literary stuff. (They're all looking for Erotic Romance.)


Of course, there's always the 'self-publishing route...? www.lulu.com


Outside of poetry, and high-brow literary journals, the only stuff in the Literary style being bought by the general public -- and publishers today, are Classics. We're talking stuff that were originally called Torrid Romances, (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre...) Pulp Fiction, (Sherlock Holmes, HG Wells' novels, Dickens' novels...) and Penny Dreadfuls (Dracula, Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe's works...) Stuff that was published a hundred years ago or longer; stuff that was NOT considered Literary in their day; stuff by authors that are currently DEAD.


"But! But! But what about the great literary authors still alive today...?"


London Times
Publishers toss Booker winners into the Reject Pile

by Jonathan Calvert and Will Iredale


...Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul's In a Free State and a second novel, Holiday, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents. None appear to have recognized them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best.


Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections.


Only Barbara Levy, a London literary agent, expressed an interest, and that was for Middleton's novel. She was unimpressed by Naipaul's book. She wrote: "We . . . thought it was quite original. In the end though I'm afraid we just weren't quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further."

-- Read the Rest of the story?


As I said before, outside of poetry, and high-brow literary journals, the only stuff in the Literary style being bought by the general public and publishers TODAY (not 20 years ago), are Classics.

“So, how come Anne Rice can get away with her florid and rather literary style of writing?”


Because she's ANNE RICE. Consider this, no matter what she writes, or how she writes it, she's going to sell a million copies. NO ONE is going to argue with an author that can sell a million copies with their name alone.


Is your name Anne Rice? No? Then, you're just going to have to follow the publishing house rules just like the rest of us not-quite-famous authors.


When you can sell a million copies on just your name alone, you'll be able to write any gosh darned thing in any gosh darn way you care to because absolutely no one will argue with you. Don't want an editor? No one will argue that either; just ask Steven King or heck, Anne Rice!


In short, if you want to be published in this day and age, forget the expensive literary writing courses. Take a nice cheap class on commercial copywriting because that is the style of writing publishers are looking for today.

"Copywriting...? Isn't that for Advertising...?"


Yes it is. Think, what does Advertising do? It delivers its message with as much emotional impact and persuasive power as it can jam into One Sentence or less:

-- "Got milk?"

-- "The incredible, edible, egg."

-- "The Quicker Picker-Upper."


Copywriting teaches you to deliver the most amount of information in the least amount of words. Just think what that style of writing could do for your fiction! (It's done wonders for mine.)


Parts unashamedly raped from:
Create Emotion, Not Sentimentality, in Fiction: By Vivian Gilbert Zabel


DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Ookami Kasumi


Post your thoughts

Commenting is disabled for guests. Please login to post a comment.