Writing Fiction: Facts v. Feeling

Last night, my husband dragged me in front of the TV to watch the Memorial Day concert from the National Mall in DC. He’s a decorated Vietnam vet, so stuff like this is important to him. I thought I’d be bored silly (I was in sixth grade on his first tour of duty) but because of the stories told, I was sucked right in. The producers wisely steered largely clear of facts and veered toward feeling. And they left the characters’ dignity intact.

Writing Tip for Today: Improve your fiction by using the techniques of story which produce deep emotion.

Best Acting Digs Deep.

If you have written a scene that is lackluster, flat or which is getting feedback of “way too long,” you may be able to rewrite it so that it jerks tears out of readers or gives rise to a deep emotion. In order to do this, employ acting techniques, such as tapping into a recent emotional experience and applying it to the characters in the scene. If it’s supposed to be funny, think of the body language, details or other elements you remember from a real life experience. If a scene is supposed to elicit tears, let your mind go to a painful place in your life as you convey your character’s emotions.

Look for Exposition or Narrative.

When you rewrite, keep an eye out for exposition and narrative. These two forms of prose are usually the places where feeling recedes and logic takes over. Keep your exposition (telling of information) particularly short and don’t forget: RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain). The more you immerse readers in the action and dialogue, the better chance you have of pulling in readers the same way the Memorial Day concert did to me.

Above All, Be Real.

Injecting emotion does not mean your characters will be chewing the scenery. You’re not after melodrama or caricature. In order to convey genuine emotion, study real persons as they deal with the ups and downs of life. Watching good movies can sometimes show you how characters emote to convey deep emotion. Let the rise in tension slope uphill, building to a climax. Always remember to preserve every character’s human dignity–even antagonists. Fiction that’s short on facts and long on feelings has a higher chance of pulling in readers and keeping them reading.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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