Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Splitting The Scene, Part Four: Thoughts and Emotions

For this post, I have a very special guest. We know her on the blogosphere only as crabby cow #1 (crabbycows.blogspot.com). She's an editor in the UK, and she's been kind enough to share some wisdom here on my blog. The following post is all hers.

What I look for in a scene may be different from another editor. It also depends what the scene is showing.

Horror: I want to feel scared. I want tension, action, to sit on the edge of my seat. I want to read so fast, to gobble up the text and get to the point where I'm freaked. I like creepy, not out and out gore. For a writer to affect me, they would have to let me know what the MC is thinking. Those are the best books - when I get to see the MC's mind working - to try and guess what they will do next, and be thrown off, be surprised that it wasn't as I expected it to be.

Romance/erotica: I want to feel what these people feel. I don't want to read something that is wooden and bland: Mary touched him and he inserted his didgerydoo into her lady garden and it felt good.

Pardon? Give me the touches, the feelings of those participating in the scene. I want to forget I'm reading, to BE that woman who is being made love to. I want it to make me recall something I have experienced, to bring back memories of love that I've long since filed away. To make me smile, and with erotica, yes, to get hot under the collar.

Weepies: Make me cry. Make me get so emotional that I go past the lump in my throat and into an out and out sob fest. When a scene is describing a death that is meant to inspire sad emotion (not including horror, which should scare me, make me shit my knickers, or at the very least think, 'What a weird man/killer!') I want to be transported into the feelings of the character.

What I advise is make your character come alive from page one. Inner thoughts are excellent. I look for those. I like a character to be so well drawn that I begin to care about them, hate them. Once you have that, the rest of the scenes fall into place.

I've recently read an ebook with such a massive characterisation of the MC that I was astounded. This writer packed emotion and inner thoughts from the MC's childhood, right up to the present day. I knew how this MC felt at all times, as well as reading what he was doing/the story. Some writers focus on plot as their main feature. Those are all well and good if the characterisation is enough to carry it through. Those that have a good, solid plot, but focus on the character and use that character to show the plot - there you have a gem.

Make your scenes solid. Make every single scene say something. I want to have some form of emotion while reading every one of your scenes, be it anger, sadness, happiness, or a bit of sexy heat.

To summarise: I want to know your MC's thoughts and emotions. That is my main need.

I think her wisdom here is spot-on. What do you think?


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Jude:
She makes marvelous points. I like what she says about moving past the lump in the throat. You want to push readers deep into your book--have them lost in that world entirely.


4:41 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Absolutely, Erica. What John Gardner calls "the fictional dream." Through our characters, we want to transport the reader to a different location, time, emotion, etc. The best fiction does that consistently, I think.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I’m so with CC#1 on these thoughts. As a reader I want to be transported into the protag’s head. I think that’s why I love first person – reading and writing in that POV.

And as far as the old character vs. plot discussion – of course you have to have both. I firmly believe that. If you create dimensionless characters with no history and no motivation, the plot will move along, but you'll feel empty when it's over. A book full of enchanting characters that goes nowhere may be delightful, but it's most likely boring. But if I had to choose one or the other, I have to go with characters. They breathe life into the book. They engage your emotions. They make you give a damn.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Aaron:

I agree. I like first person POV too, even with its obvious limitations.

And I'm right with you on the plot vs. character thing. I think plot should happen because of the characters' motivations. Traditionally, mysteries tend to be plot-driven, but I think the best ones are where well-drawn three dimensional characters take the wheel.

7:37 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

Good advice, but don't let inner thoughts or feelings take away from the plot.

We write stories, not character studies.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Joe:

We do write stories, but it's the characters' actions and reactions that propel the plot forward. It's hard to really know a character until we see how s/he reacts to stress, and sympathy is crucial in getting readers to turn pages.

I see your point, though. You have to strike the right balance. If you go on for pages and pages about the character's inner conflicts, the reader might get fed up with waiting for something to happen and whiz your beloved book into the river.

With description, and with thoughts and emotions, I try to weave them seamlessly into the action. EVERYTHING should move the plot forward. If it doesn't, time to find the scissors.

11:07 PM  

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