Friday, January 27, 2012

Tis a Writer's life for me -- Emotions!

I finished the final galleys for Veil of Pearls! I won't see that book again until it arrives on my doorstep a few weeks before it's release.  I also received another endorsement!

One can expect two things when they pick up a MaryLu Tyndall novel--endearing characters and a plot that sweeps you away. Hidden within the entertainment is a spiritual message that whispers to the corners of your soul. Give yourself a treat by losing yourself in one of her enchanting stories.
Kim Vogel Sawyer--Bestselling author of My Heart Remembers

Many authors will tell you that the entire purpose of good writing is to make the reader "feel" something. Anything!  Although I  am also an advocate of incorporating a moral lesson within a story and using it to bring the reader closer to God, I agree whole heartedly that invoking emotions is an important goal. Why else would someone pick up a book or go to a movie? We want to be moved. We want to feel something that may be missing in our normal, humdrum lives.. We want to fall in love, to feel the pain of loss, to cheer when good triumphs over evil. We want to ride the horse of victory across the battlefield, sail the Caribbean with pirates, soar in a WWII airplane, cry when death steals a character from our arms.  We want to experience life through our character's eyes, ears, and heart.

Somewhat easy to do in a movie where you have so many visuals at your fingertips. Not so much in a book. So, how do we do it? How do we infuse emotion into a scene so vividly, so realistically, that the reader feels what the character feels?

First of all, you must create deep, interesting, relatable characters that your reader will love and root for! (That's a whole other topic we don't have time for here)

Secondly, you must use the tools of setting, dialogue, sentence structure, and description to take the reader on a journey deep within the character, down into their soul, so the reader can experience what the character is experiencing.

Here's a sample from the book I'm currently writing. In the first samples, I've taken out all the emotion. The second samples are what I've written.
To set the scene, the characters are all Southerners on a ship headed for Brazil. They hate anyone and anything to do with the North. And they have just discovered that one of them, a lady named Eliza was married to a Yankee. We are in Eliza's point of view

Sample 1: Eliza was in shock as everyone's eyes snapped in her direction. Some of them registering surprise. Others already sparking with disdain.

Sample 2: Eliza’s blood abandoned her heart. It sped away in a mad dash that left her cold and empty. She couldn’t move. Could barely breathe as everyone’s eyes snapped in her direction. Some of them registering shock. Others already sparking with disdain.

Note the 'showing' of what it feels like to be in shock, rather than just telling the reader. That way, the reader can experience it right along with the character

Sample 1: Thunder sounded as rain poured down. Grant released Magnolia. His forehead creased. "Is this true?"
Sample 2: Thunder cracked a fierce whip across the sky as the sprinkles grew weightier, tap tap tapping Eliza’s doom on the wooden planks of the deck. Grant released Magnolia. Three lines as deep as trenches split his forehead. “Is this true?”

Notice the use of setting to invoke the image of punishment and doom so the reader "feels" the guilt of the character.

Sample 1: Eliza stared at the faces of the people. The seas grew rough. Rain poured down. Must she answer the question?

Sample 2: Wiping rain from her face, Eliza scanned the faces locked upon her like cannons upon an enemy. The seas grew rough. Lantern light shifted over them in bands of silver and black—black like the bands on their arms, honoring lost loved ones. The blame for their deaths now cast at Eliza’s feet. Rain pounded the deck. It slid down Eliza’s cheeks and pooled in her lashes until everything grew blurry. She wished they would all disappear. She wished she would melt into the deck. Anything but answer the question toiling on Grant’s face.

Notice the use of simile, comparing the gazes to cannons pointed at her. Then the use of the description of the lantern light to highlight the black bands which symbolized loved ones lost in the war, enhancing the character's guilt. Even the rain pounding the deck invokes anger. The blurry vision creatres a sense of the hopelessness the character feels.

Emotions! Emotions!! Use all the tools available to you to create a "mood", to invoke a certain feeling in your reader.. and they'll keep coming back for more! 


  1. This is really good advice! As a wanna-be writer myself I will take these fantastic points to heart and try and reflect more emotion in my stories...
    Thanks so much!

  2. Fri Jan 27th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    'Congrats' on finishing "Veil of Pearls" ... and a special 'Congrats' to receiving another endorsement !!! Way to go !
    Emotions ... you create them in your characters and stories so extremely well. I have always said about your novels ... it's because you make your characters "relatable" ... they are everyday people, we can identify with ... which is why I enjoy them so much !
    And, when I took a writing course ... they were always saying .... "show", don't 'tell'. And, that is exactly what you do ! Your choice of descriptive words for -- actions, dialogue, feelings, thoughts, moods ... captures us right into the depth and details of your characters ... and what they are experiencing. Love it !
    And, yes, that is why ... I keep coming back for more !!!!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  3. Wow. I wanna be just like you when I grow up!

  4. Excellent! Now, I REALLY can't wait to read this one. You would make an excellent writing teacher, MaryLu, you explain things so clearly. Great job!
    My emotion?
    As an observer of the events unfolding before me, I feel totally helpless to come to Eliza's aid. Seeing the anguish in her face pulls at my heartstrings. At the very least, I'd like to put an umbrella over her head. Hehehe
    Have a great weekend, MaryLu!

  5. Sarah, glad I could help!
    Brenda, thanks as usual! Bless you!
    Michelle.. you are already like me, silly wench!
    Debbie, Love the umbrella comment! LOL Glad you were touched by Eliza even in this short clip.

  6. This is great advice, MaryLu! You demonstrated the difference between telling and describing a characters emotions so beautifully and clearly. You are inspiration. Thanks, and God bless you!

  7. WOW. I never knew how just a few words placed carefully could change the whole atmosphere. Almost like poetry. Or as if your describing the scene to someone who is blind. Wonderful descriptions, and congrats on finishing Veil of Pearls!

  8. What is the first picture from?

  9. I like this post a lot!
    The examples are pretty cool. Nice to see the difference.
    -Rebekkah xD

  10. Glad you enjoyed it, Gwendolyn!
    Thanks so much, Eszter and Rebekkah!
    The first picture is from one of my favorite movies.. Braveheart.

  11. Oh. I haven't seem it. My father amd mother saw it and they either didn't like it or had a hard time watching it. So I haven't seen it yet.
    -Rebekkah xD

  12. It's a really sad and bloody movie. Very romantic and very true to life about how the Scottish struggled for their freedom against the British. But it's definitely not a feel good movie.

  13. Wow. I REALLY can't wait to read this book!!! I'm already liking the characters :)