ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Capturing Emotions

Updated on December 27, 2014

Writing on the Go

She leans across the table. The chattering of other diners is near deafening, but there is no mistaking the fierceness of her gaze toward the young man sitting across from her. Her lips, as if in slow motion, carefully construct her words and even though I can’t hear her icy voice, I have no trouble reading her lips. Her eyes narrow to thin lines and crystalline tears bead at the corners.

The young man sits like a fleshy statue; face void of emotion and lips clamped shut. The girl exhales, her breath flickers the flame of the squat candle sitting on the table between them. She tosses her napkin across the table at him, rises from her seat, and stomps from the restaurant. Like their relationship—the candle-glow dies, leaving a soft tendril of purple smoke; the only evidence a flame ever existed.

We’ve all seen scenarios such as this played out in movies and television, or read them between the pages of books. What’s amazing is when successfully conveyed; those emotions magically transfer to us. We leave that theater or close that book with an emotional high. In either medium, be it screen or page, those emotions begin with creative writing.

How does a writer convey those emotions onto the written page? Most of all, how do they do it successfully? In a word: practice.

Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard that one before. Are you learning to play the piano? Practice makes perfect. How about the guitar? Yes, you guessed it; practice makes perfect. However, I believe there’s a problem with this logic. Let’s say you are learning to play the guitar. If all you learn to do is play chords and shun scales, then all you’ll ever be is a rhythm guitarist standing at the back of the stage while the other guitarist (the one that practices his or her scales) stands in the spotlight wailing out a solo to thousands of head-banging groupies.

Let’s take this another step forward. If practice makes perfect, then perfection can only be achieved by practicing perfectly; and who can do that? Are you perfect? I’m certainly not. So, with that logic, perfection is unobtainable. Still, we practice. We practice to better ourselves—to bring ourselves as close to perfection as possible—to be the best at what we do.

I bet you’re asking—what does practicing the guitar have to do with capturing emotions in creative writing? Don’t worry; I’m getting there. It’s not just about learning to play the guitar or learning to write well—there’s another factor—one that goes beyond learning the guitar or creating a literary masterpiece with only twenty-six letters and some punctuation. A professional guitar player can create emotion with music—we feel the music. It makes us sway on our feet, dance, clap our hands, or just close our eyes to our tears. Transferring emotion through that musical instrument is a skill that must be homed in much the same way as learning that single note or chord.

Show, Don't Tell

Capturing emotions in creative writing works the same way. As writers, we all have the same tools available to us—it’s how we use them, arrange them, and present them that strikes an emotional chord with our readers.

Here is an example—anybody can write:

“I hate you!” she said angrily.

Yes, we get the picture—the speaker is angry, but as a creative writer, we need to show her emotion, not just tell the reader about it. Let’s try this again by adding a little description, removing the exclamation point, as well as that annoying adverb.

Through clenched teeth and trembling lips, she whispers, “I. Hate. You.”

Personally, I like the second example. The speaker is no longer just angry—she is beyond angry, so much so that she can barely speak. By eliminating the adverb angrily, we bring the reader into the story, allowing them to use their own imagination and assign an emotion to the speaker.

During a first draft, I’ll often use the first example when I write. That way I can write the story down quickly, and come back later to tweak it during the rewrite. The great thing about today’s word processors is the find feature. I’ll use this tool to search through my manuscript without painstakingly combing through it a line at a time. For the example above, after my first draft, I’ll open the find tool and do a search for ly. The software then magically teleports me through the pages, stopping me at each ly occurrence.

Ellen hits the nail on the head

Be Prepared Anywhere

Look again at the first two paragraphs. I wrote those two paragraphs one day during lunch. As a part-time writer with dreams of moving to full-time, I have embraced mobile technology and the power of freedom it has provided me. I take notes and write stories on the go—my lunch-breaks are no exception. On this particular day, I was working on a novel (yes, I’m writing a novel on my phone). However, when I caught a glimpse of the couple sitting a few tables away, I could tell that something was up. I opened a new notepad on my phone and began jotting down what I saw.

Take advantage of mobile technology and write anywhere and everywhere. As with the couple at the restaurant, you never know when you will be witness to some form of emotion—and what better way to capture it in words than when it is happening right in front of you. Be prepared. Do you need to write a scene involving a bunch of people at a club? Then go to the club, find you a seat somewhere and start eavesdropping on the conversations around you. What jokes are they telling? Does everyone laugh, or does at least one person take offense to the joke and storm off?

In every situation, there are opportunities to witness emotional responses. As much as we dread getting that slip of paper in the mail ordering us to appear for jury duty, I can’t think of a better place to take note of human emotions. See that man fidgeting at the back of the room? Why is he so nervous? What about the woman constantly opening and closing her purse and checking her phone while loudly exhaling with each movement? There’s your annoyance. A perceptive writer will always be prepared to capture those emotions in words—and even if you can’t write them down immediately, do so as soon as possible—ideally before you turn in for the night.

Outline or Pantser?

When you write, do you outline your novel or story, or do you write by the seat of your pants (pantser)?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Janaya 

      3 years ago

      This is way more helpful than antnihyg else I've looked at.

    • profile image

      missirupp 

      3 years ago

      Good tips, CJ. I'll be watching for more.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)