Showing Emotions in your writing, with Heather Moore

heather moore

In our third interview with author/editor Heather Moore, we talk about how to show emotion in your writing, something that’s sometimes difficult to do but one of the best ways to draw readers into your story. She mentions the Poisonwood Bible, and Jeff Savage, Carol Lynch Williams, James Dashner, and Ally Condie’s novels as good examples of how to show emotion. She also mentions some strategies you can use to deepen the emotion in a scene, such as:

-Describing internal and physical reactions
-Hiding emotions
-Using the senses and looking at scene analytically
-How different age groups and genders show emotions in different ways
-Making sure your characters have flaws
-Focusing on common emotions like fear, anger, grief, love, etc…
-Avoiding clichés like “their chests tighten” or “a cold tingle down the spine”
-Through dialogue, objects and metaphor

Be sure to comment on this podcast for a chance to win Heather’s latest LDS fiction book, Abinadi! The contest will end Wednesday, April 18th.

Download here

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Information for the beginning or aspiring writer about all things writing in the fiction world. Novels, publishing, etc. We feature author and other professional interviews. View all posts by Writing Snippets

14 responses to “Showing Emotions in your writing, with Heather Moore

  • Mark L Forman

    Another great podcast! I find it interesting that the basic idea behind all of this is, “Show don’t Tell”. Show emotions, don’t just tell the reader that someone is angry, sad, depressed, etc. Show it!

    I know in my own writing that I often don’t pay much attention to the emotions that are going on. After listening to this, I will be putting more thought into the emotional side of stories, and trying to show those emotions without directly telling what they are. Thanks for helpimg me get better.

  • Elizabeth Mueller

    Cliches in visceral responses are the giants of emotional feeling. There are other physical reactions to anger besides “seeing red” or trembling. One great way to note body language, word usage from one that is angry as well as visceral is to keep a journal. When you’re angry, record every detail you are experience. Look in the mirror. Nostrils flaring, eyes glittering, eyebrows furrowed, jaw clenching, fast breathing. What about heart rate? Thought speed?

    This goes for all other emotions, too!

    Btw, I love using metaphors to depict emotion. 🙂

    • alicebeesley

      Thanks for the great suggestion. I love using metaphors to depict emotions too, but as my writer’s group will confirm, They don’t always work the way I want them to. but sometimes they work really well! They are tricky to get right. Maybe we should have a podcast just on using metaphors. Ooh, I like that idea.

  • carathebatty

    Thank you for posting this podcast. It was just what I needed. I’ve been trying to put more emotion in my story and this gave me some great ideas.

    The one thing I’ve really been struggling with is my main character is afraid a lot in the story so I tend to use the same things over and over because I can’t think of how else to show fear. If anyone has any advise on that I would love to hear it.

    If you’re looking for a good book to help with characters “Characters and Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card is a great one that I just finished. Something that you said in the podcast reminded me of this quote from the book:
    “If your characters cry, your readers won’t have to; if your characters have a good reason to cry, and don’t, your readers will do the weeping.”

    • alicebeesley

      Great quote. Glad this podcast was just what you needed. I’m writing a story with a lot of fear in it too and find I run into the same problems. I try to take the cliches like “racing heart” and twist them. Eg. . . My heart/pulse sprinted as if I were doing the hundred yard dash; ran as if I were being chased by a tiger; galloped like a wild horse from a cowboy with a rope; sped out of control like a car down a hill with no brakes . . . Not the greatest examples but you get the idea, right?

  • circustoybox

    My first time listening to a Writing Snippets podcast, and I am glad to say I very much enjoyed it!

    I agree with Elizabeth about the “show don’t tell” thing, reading about how sad characters “cry” or “tremble” bore me to death…and I usually breeze through those scenes without feeling anything.

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

  • Kris Ellsworth (@dancetechie)

    I’ve just started seriously considering trying to put my writing out to publish. These podcasts are great helps. I really liked the remark about doing an emotion edit. I have been taught to map out emotions of characters, but I never thought to focus a whole edit on the emotions. I think it would help my writing as I set that expectation to have an editing session focused on emotion, as well as giving myself a constant reminder to take these helpful hints in the podcast and apply them as I write and edit.

  • Heather Moore

    I love “Characters & Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card. Elizabeth, great ideas 🙂

  • Betsy Love Lds Author

    Great podcast, Heather and the gals at Snippets! I work hard to show emotion in my characters and sometimes it’s really easy to slip into telling and now showing.

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