Drawing on Experiences for the Emotional Arc

The Golden Rules

  1. If you lift it straight from life, it needs to go into an autobiography, a biography, or another non-fiction book. Fiction is fictional. Don't let your imagination rust up by copying and pasting the lives of your nearest and dearest into your novels.
  2. If you ignore '1' your friends and family will never speak to you again.
  3. You CAN lift the EMOTION out of your life, but a better way to do it is to start with the fictional world you are constructing and, from within the character's psychological mindset, sink into those experiences you have had that resonate with the character's own.
  4. This will hurt (if the emotions are painful).
  5. Make sure the pain you're feeling is the character's and not your own. If it is your own, leave the room and have a piece of cake. Have a whole cake if you need to. Literature is more important than your waistline. The pen is mightier than the pin-up, and so on, and so forth. This is important stuff.
  6. Take time away from the scene.
  7. Go back to it when you can read it in a readerly, rather than writerly way. If, when you read it as a reader, you still cry for the character, you've got it right. If you cry for yourself, get therapy. Whatever the problem, it's not worth ruining a book over it.
  8. You can graph the plot and emotional arcs if you desperately want to, but an easier way to test them is just to read your book. Give it time to cool. Then read.
Any other tips you can share, word nerds?  Leave them in the comments section. 

Val Wilcox  – (16 January 2011 at 00:12)  

What you mention makes perfect sense. Some of the posts I've don have been inspired by events and people's reactions. Yet I have learned to step back from it and share the message, not the event. This provides a great catalyst and way to see it from a different perspective. It usually ends up with a totally different slant than I started anyway. LOL

Val :)

Rebecca Woodhead  – (28 January 2011 at 19:04)  

Thanks Val. That's a great way to put it.

Charlie  – (31 January 2011 at 21:55)  

Interesting... A lot of my characters' pain comes from my own life. I tried to be as honest as I could when creating her situation. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, but as I read it, I don't think about me at all. I feel for her.

Now that I think about it, most of my characters are part of me.

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