Emotions can ruin a good story.
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I beta-read five chapters for an author recently and it went from a bizarre reading to a learning experience.
I’d read for her before, as well as being an admirer of her work and owning most of her back catalog across three genres. I knew her writing style well.
After reading two chapters of the manuscript, I put it away and sent her a text about questions I had.
We talked a short time later and since we never minced words with each other; I asked her why reading about the emotional reunion of a married couple separated by a wildfire during a camping trip read more like a five-year-old tax return. Was she trying something new? Did I get the first draft?
She laughed and said she should never have sent the chapters.
Confusion and I were BFFs by this time but she continued before I could respond.
She explained the chapters were written… after an argument with her husband.
And yes, she proofed them but she was still angry and considered the chapters ready.
While we were talking, she pulled up the chapters and read aloud…. And laughed more.
She promised to send me edited chapters in a few days after she got her head right. The difference was like night and day. I was keyed into the emotions of the couple… not the writer.
We still laugh about the incident but wonder if we’ve compromised past work with our real-time feelings.
Most writers consider it a win if their work sparks their own emotions and they’re optimistic about pulling the same tears, laughter, anger, or melancholy from readers.
But writing is a mind game and our subconscious guides us more than we admit.
The takeaway from the beta reading incident? If the emotions are there, use them.
Having a crappy day? Write the rude encounter scene.
Coworkers making you homicidal? Write the fight scene.
Real-time emotions aren’t a necessity when writing. Writers can pull from prior personal experiences. But don’t avoid writing just because you’re not in the mood. Using the mood and the emotions can give your writing a more authentic flare and keep Mr. Passive Voice at bay.
I used my personal emotions in a recent scene for Sins of the Mother.
The adult children of the protagonist are waiting to hear the outcome of their father’s surgical procedure. My own eighty-three-year-old mother, a cancer survivor, was undergoing a delicate procedure two-thousand miles away. The texts messages between the two siblings who were there and the five who weren’t should have taken down Verizon.
The mister suggested I focus on something else and told me to go write something… because he’s eloquent like that.
I read my scene-list several times before the hospital scene registered and I decided to give it a go.
I wrote until I received the message mom was back in her room and doing great, over an hour.
Of course, the scene is too long, but I’m pleased with the overall result and know the edited version will be spot on.
I have two fearful scenes to write. Channeling my own fear would involve encounters with the infamous Arizona spiders and/or scorpions.
I think I’ll just use my words this time.
Day 13 word count – 25,266