Sunday, August 27, 2017

Writing Dialog and Experiencing My Characters' Emotions

Photo by Marina Martindale
One of my cousins used to be an actress, and she once told me how she experienced her characters' emotions as she portrayed them. She said performing emotionally charged scenes often left her feeling drained.

The same is true for me as a novel writer. With nearly every character I create, I experience their emotions as I write my scenes. Writing the dialog is what drives those emotions.

I'm working on my next novel, The Letter. Leading man Danny is being hounded by Martha, a woman from his past, and I've been building up to a major confrontation between the two for sometime. This past week I finally wrote the chapter where their conflict reaches its crescendo. I expected this scene to be fun to write. Martha has caused Danny a lot of grief, and I wanted him to feel vindicated. However, as I wrote the dialog I started feeling emotions I didn't expect to feel.

Danny wants no further contact from Martha. He begins the conversation in a civil tone, but an obsessed Martha won't listen to reason and she refuses to let him go. As the scene plays out, Danny becomes more and more frustrated with her. As he tries to get through to her he becomes more verbally harsh. Then, in the middle of it all, I started feeling anxious myself. Harsh words, even when justified, can hurt like a fist, and some of the verbiage brought back bad memories of arguments I've had in my own past. By the time I finished writing the scene I felt as if I'd been sucker punched by both Danny and Martha.

It was at this point that I'd planned to write Martha out of the story completely and have another antagonist take over, but now I think I'll keep her around. She has a real knack for pissing people off, and talent like hers shouldn't go to waste. While the new antagonist will be the main focus for the remainder of the story, Martha will be seeking her revenge on those who she thinks turned Danny against her.

The Letter should be available by the spring of 2018. Meantime I'm going to go chill for awhile.

MM

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