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Wear your heart on your sleeve Tags: Writers Abroad writing ex-pat writers writing emotion

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by [Ackerman, Angela, Puglisi,Becca]

Portraying emotion is one of the most difficult things in writing. I certainly have to work hard at it, although I have improved since I first joined Writers Abroad many moons ago. My local writing group has spent a number of sessions trying to pin down what constitutes a good portrayal of emotion.

We have each brought examples of writing from published authors. I chose the opening passages of Hannah Kentís The Good People, which illustrate grief. We have done a number of writing exercises (you might like to try these). One involved writing about a farmer who is grieving for his dead son, but we couldnít mention the son or his death or any words that signal emotion. Instead, we had to describe the farmerís barn and convey in the details his sense of loss. In another exercise, we had to write about someone standing on a beach looking at the sea, but we could choose the emotion. I found both exercises difficult.

After doing a lot of work on this, we have drawn several conclusions.

  • Make readers feel with the characters and evoke a reaction. They have to feel the joy or the fear or the anger. They have to care about what happens to your characters, even if they are not sympathetic personalities.
  • This means showing what characters are feeling and not reporting it to your readers. So ďthoughtĒ words like thinks, knows, understands, realises, believes, wants, remembers, imagines, desires, etc. are out. Loves and hates are also no-nos. This is bad news for me.
  • Show charactersí emotions through their interactions with other people and their environment, and their actions and gestures. This means avoiding long soliloquies, which hold up the action and drag you back into using those ďthoughtĒ words. Again, bad news for me.
  • Vary the intensity of the emotions. Even in a thriller, the main character canít be scared or apprehensive all the time. Itís as exhausting for the reader as it is for the character.

Thereís a lot more to it, of course. Whole books have been written about showing and not telling. Also, if youíve been writing for any length of time, you know all this, so Iím not telling you anything new. However, if youíre like me, you find it maddeningly difficult to do it well.

Help is at hand, though. Someone recommended to me The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writerís Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book lists 75 emotions and suggests ways of expressing them, including body language. Want to convey anger, envy or joy? Turn to the relevant page and you have a range of helpful suggestions.

The book is a helpful starting point, but itís always a good idea to think up your own metaphors and turns of phrase to describe emotions. If you rely too much on a primer, your creative muscle goes flabby.

Now Iím off to expunge all those ďthoughtĒ words from my WiPÖ

†† †

This Week on Writers Abroad 29th January
Category: Site News
Tags: Writers Abroad writing ex-pat writers

January is almost over, thank goodness. Here in SW France it's been one of the gloomiest I can remember in 20 years. At least the evenings are starting to draw out and I've had plenty of time for writing.

Yesterdayís Formal Chat was somewhat sparsely attended, and I am one of the culprits with a last-minute commitment. Lesley will be posting up the minutes soon, so take a moment to read them and to look through the Skype chat if you have time.

Bruceís blog post bemoans the need to shovel snow, since he lives in Sweden where itís abundant, but it has provided him with some inspiration for snow poems.

Nicola has posted this weekís Monday Muses, a great selection to choose from with something for everyone, including Ė quelle surprise! Ė a horse picture. The usual drill: 500 words-ish or a poem in 20 minutes or so. Just let it flow.

The Bragging Stool is, as ever, groaning beneath the combined weight (no offence intended!) of Bruce and Debbie, who both appear in the latest issue of ArtAscent (Portraits), Chris and Sue whose flash pieces were accepted by Ad Hoc last week (how many weeks is that, Sue?) and Angela, who has had a flash fiction piece accepted by Cake Magazine.

STOP PRESS: Ad Hoccer par excellence Sue's interview with Ad Hoc is now up on the Bath Flash Fiction Award website. You can read it here.†

The February Challenges and Opportunities will be posted up this week and there is still Jillís piece for the Swanwick Comp in the January forum. Iím sure she would appreciate additional comments.

In addition, there are various pieces posted in the Works in Progress forum, including Bruceís ongoing ĎMedium Rareí novella, so critiquing comments would, Iím sure, be welcome.

Thatís all this week. If Iíve missed anything or got anything wrong please let me know.

Have a creative week. Iím off to get on with novel no. 3.

Self-publish and be damned? Tags: writing Writers Abroad self-publishing Kindle Amazon

This yearís NaNoWriMo is approaching the halfway point. Congrats to everyone taking part. Even if you donít make the 50K words, the commitment is still a great achievement.

Once the month is over, the dust has settled, youíve added another 30K words, rewritten it, had it beta-read and edited it again for the nth time Ė what do you do then?

  • Chalk it up to experience and put it in the proverbial drawer?
  • Submit it to agents or to the rare publishers that accept unagented submissions?
  • Self-publish it?

The first option would be a pity after so much effort, but itís your novel. We all know how difficult the second is. So what about the third option?

Self-publishing became a lot easier after the advent of e-books and print on demand. For some time, though, it was widely regarded as an option for work that wasnít good enough to be published by traditional means. Fast forward to 2017 and some of the most successful authors are self-publishing their books. Itís not necessarily an either/or: some of those authors, such as our own Nicola (Nina to her fans), continue to be traditionally published as well.

The stigma that once applied to self-publishing has been largely dispelled. There is still a quality issue in some cases, but that also applies to traditional publishing.

I never thought I would self-publish a book, because I was afraid of everything that went with it. You are responsible for the whole thing: writing, quality control, editing, production, cover design and sales and marketing. This is not to say that you do all of these things yourself Ė in fact, I would always advocate commissioning professional editors and designers Ė but you are the driving force behind the project.

I dipped a toe in the water when I recently self-published via Amazon a collection of my short stories set in France. Having already been traditionally published, this was an experiment and I started off with something short (itís 104 printed pages) and uncomplicated.

A great deal of advice exists, but sometimes you donít find it until itís too late. I learned many things in a short time, but these are the key ones:

Research as much as you can beforehand.†Amazon provides guidance, but itís always good to talk to other authors who have done it. This can save you from irrevocable mistakes.

Allow enough time to do everything and do it in the right order.†I almost came a cropper here. For various reasons, I wanted my own ISBNs. Since I live in France, I had to apply to the French ISBN agency. They said it would take three weeks. This almost scuppered my already-announced publication date. Fortunately, after I pleaded urgency, they emailed them the following day.

Donít try to do everything yourself.†A three year-old has better design skills than I do. Amazon provides its own cover design templates, but itís difficult to make them look professional. In my view, a professional-looking cover can make a lot of difference to potential buyers, so I commissioned a designer and was delighted with the results. As I said above, a professional editor is also a good idea.

Fortunately, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace (Amazonís paperback production arm) allow you to amend and upload your manuscript and cover countless times before you hit publish. Itís still a scary feeling when you do. Then you have the nail-biting wait to see if anyone will buy it, but the marketing side is another story.

Clearly, thereís much more to self-publishing than I can go into here. But if I can do it, anyone can. Here's the result and it looks like a book!

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