Expressions of emotion

One of the things I have the most trouble with when writing is expressions. Not colloquial phrases, but the way body language is communicated. My characters have a bad habit of nodding, and sighing, and looking away. How do you show context, body language, without leaning on crutches, stock motions you think might somehow communicate more than the words themselves.

One of the authors I adore, Maggie Stiefvater, does it well. I can always visualize both the places around her characters, the characters themselves, and they feel so complex! So I sat down one day with my copy of Scorpio Tales, and tried to figure out how she did it.

“One of the other men pulls him aside to talk and the line moves up. I’m one step closer to signing up. My guts do a small little dance inside me. Another step up. I’m wondering if it’s nerves or the pressing heat of all these bodies that’s making me light-headed. Another step up.

“My stomach is an ocean of trouble as the man in front of me places a bet. And then it is me.”

I realized, it’s in the prose itself. The little things, said and un. It’s the rhythm, the echos, the repetition. In the short sentences mixed with longer. The feel almost as if you’re breathing in rhythm with Puck’s thoughts, stepping with her.

How do you express emotions in your stories? How do you show them, make the reader feel them, viscerally?

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1 Comment

  1. April 5, 2012 at 9:51 am

    i think the rhythm of the words themselves is effective, yes. but paying attention to the senses adds depth to any scene. if you’ll notice stiefvater included sounds and temperature and internal feelings that all help ground us in the scene enabling us to better picture and feel ourselves there. that’s something i try to use to make my scenes work better.


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