Season 2, Episode 15: Layers of Emotion

Trigger warning: we talk about suicide in this episode, as it pertains to one of Mel’s characters.

This week Mel had to do some Kemlo-ordered homework – reading the Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas, Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy, and The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. She has trouble connecting emotion to her writing and needs to do more work on Chapter 5 before moving on.

“When writing body sensations, you yourself have to be in touch with your own body. A lot of times we ignore our body sensations because we’re focusing on other things.” – Melanie

Kemlo says that it’s hard to layer emotion because it needs to be pervasive – it needs to be on every page, all the time. We as readers don’t cease to be human, and sometimes it takes as little as one or two lines of tweaking to add that nuance.

Sometimes, just adding a character’s thoughts is enough to get the emotion across—and not just “I feel afraid” – what are they afraid of? What do they think is going to happen, or what do they want/not want to happen? There’s more power behind it if it’s character-specific.

“One of the things I find fascinating when I read, say, the book A Man Called Ove – when you read it, there are places I’ve cried in that book. He’s just doing it in a really nuanced, really subtle way. Sometimes it’s the whole Gestalt of what you’re getting across. What makes it so hard is trying to get it on every page.” – Kemlo Aki

Mel points out that she and Abby (who has a graduate degree in) could walk into an art museum and while Mel could say “Hey, what a nice painting” Abby would see so much more because she’s got more experience with the subject. The same goes for writing – until you write a book, it’s hard to have a sincere appreciation of all that goes into the process. An experienced writer can look at a book and see all the different threads the author spent likely hundreds of hours weaving through their story, the subtle details that take seconds to read but add so much to the final product.

Even mid-revision, Mel and Abby are reminded again that practice might not ever make perfect (what writer is happy with their book when the send it off to their publisher?), but it makes it better.

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