I’ve always been a fan of Daniel Goleman’s books on emotional intelligence. I’m re-reading the one focusing on the work arena at the moment. What I’ve realised is that as a writer, understanding and managing your own emotional world can pay off in spades, particularly in fiction writing.
Emotions as a colour palette for fiction writing
As I’ve been developing my characters in the Rasa books, I’ve come to realise my own areas of emotional illiteracy. Having to get inside a character’s head and describe what they’re feeling and how they might respond – this is actually no mean feat.
If fiction writing is an art, then emotions can be one of the colour palettes we use.
A few years ago I realised that I was having trouble managing my emotions. On the advice of a friend, I started right at the basics – asking myself ‘what exactly are you feeling right now?’ I think it can come as a surprise to many of use how out of touch we are with our emotions. We know the primary colours, but not the shades. Why not take the time to reflect on your emotions, next time you feel them rising up? What did the emotion do to your physiology? Did you move differently? Maybe you covered your face with your hands, or shook your head? Just think how valuable this material will be when it comes to describing your characters. You could keep a notebook with your findings for when you need to delve into it.
They’re called that for a reason. Next time you go to write about a character with an emotion – think. Feeling – then motion. Feelings are the triggers, asking us to act. Are your characters the kind of people who might impulsively act on their emotions (what Goleman describes as an emotional hijacking) or are they more in control, more likely to consider their responses?
What actions come from feelings? This question alone unlocks a myriad of possibilities. On that note, maybe I will reopen my manuscript.
If you want to know more about character development, or you are struggling to sketch your characters in the way that you want, why not drop me a line and see if I can help? email@example.com