Friday, July 03, 2009

Emotional Scenes

Barrie Summy, tween/teen author, wrote in the comments of last post that she liked the 'come in late and leave early'. I wish I could take credit for that but I can't. I don't know if I read it or heard it. Clearly I'm having a senior moment. If it comes to me I'll let you know.

Now on to the the focus of this post - Emotional Scenes. I want to look at them from two angles - as a writer and as a reader.

This week I struggled. Demi was forced into a corner that had only two options neither which of she wanted. She had to lie or in this case say nothing which when it all came out would make things much worse (and I know sometimes that this what you want as a writer) or speak the truth and suffer the consequences. Now lying for Demi is a big deal. It's never been her thing yet suddenly she finds she's having to lie for various reasons (don't want to give the plot away here). In this situation, by lying she could have what her heart wants, but she would put someone else at risk.

Now this point had to come some time in the story - it is one of those key moments. We have watched her with this issue of telling the truth or lying and I am now beginning to rope things in.....hence my uncertainly if this romantic cliff top scene was the time. I'm sure I could have found some excuse to interrupt the lovers so she didn't have to face her demons but to be truthful (see even I can tell the truth!) - a clench on top of a Cornish cliff is a pretty dramatic location and image for such a face-off. So I bit the bullet and was nasty (which isn't my nature, unfortunately - I think I would be a far stronger writer if I was but I'm learning!)

Because I was uncomfortable with what I was doing I cut pretty quickly to the chase so to speak and I pulled out of there as fast as I bl**dy well could. In fact the words were hardly out of her mouth before I opened the next scene the morning after with a full cast of characters, but not her lover. Time and a rewrite will tell if this was the best way to handle this moment (but at least is is written).

So as a writer do you struggle with such points? Do to keep these moments of high emotional pain short for your characters or do you let them twist in agony (image of Bugs Bunny here saying AGONY) as long as possible?

Now to the second part - as a reader...what do you prefer? (I'm not sure- so over the weekend I will have a think as I have long couple of drives in front of me and I'll let you know.)

Now onto a few links (Twitter is proving to be a brilliant source of info for me - is it for you?):

Tips for Title from The Paperback Writer (the blog in general is worth a visit as there were some other great posts) This clink came via @thecreativepenn

The other link is Answers to the Top 10 Reasons Not to Twitter here and came via @BubbleCow

18 comments:

Debs said...

Great post, as usual. I'm going to have to go and have a think about this too.

Thanks for the links. Off now to have a look at them.

Will post about the new RNA blog in the next day or so.

Flowerpot said...

What I tend to do is write those scenes really quickly then go back to them later and eek them out a bit (not technical but you know what I mean!). As a reader I tend to do the same thing...! I've just read the Horse Dancer by JO Jo Moyes which was a great example of LOADS of tense moments - excellent.

Julie Cohen said...

I think you owe the reader the full emotional intensity. Not repetition, obviously, but a big moment should have its own pacing and space so that it can make its full impact. As a writer, I often get out too early in these big scenes and my editor often asks me to stay in longer, or add another scene that extends the conflict, emotion and impact.

Ending on a dramatic declaration or line or cliffhanger can be great, but you have to make sure the reader doesn't feel cheated and feel that she didn't get the whole story.

I'm writing a very emotional scene at the moment and I decided to cut it short, because the action was a bit repetitive. But I'm writing another scene after it which is the heroine reflecting on her feelings, though flashback, dream and symbolism. The thing is, the reader gets a change in pace and setting, but she also gets an extension and development of emotion, and time for that big change to really sink in.

You don't want to skim over emotion, but then again you don't want to dwell on it so much that it becomes angsty and boring. It's a delicate balance and I often have to add things in later, like Flowerpot says.

Julie Cohen said...

PS I think it's a great sign that you feel uncomfortable writing this conflict and emotion—it's an indicator that it's powerful and real. One of the problems with being a writer is that we have to force ourselves to live through these moments along with our characters, and it can hurt!

Right, back to my tense moment in my book...

SueG said...

I find I rush through the lead up stuff in order to get to write the big dramatic moments. Those moments are like my arias -- a chance to strut my stuff, so to speak. But only in the first draft. In revisions, I often have to cut some of that back, but the episode then sorts itself out. It somehow becomes evident when enough is enough. And I love reading those big moments, too. I think I'm just a big mush, anyway. REally interesting post! But as far as Twitter goes...I tried it and ran out of steam in less than a week. Just too much internet stuff to do already, I fear.

Tam said...

I get my painful scenes down and then go back and flesh them out later. But I make sure I do go back...

Liz Harris said...

Many thanks for the link to The Paperback Writer, Liz.

I've been struggling to come up with a new name for a book I've written. An agent wants to see the book, but under a different name - she hates the name I've chosen.

I HATE thinking up titles, and your link has been really helpful.

Liz H.

MelRox said...

Lovely post!

HelenMHunt said...

Although emotional scenes can be difficult to write - and of course to read, I do think the tension and intensity you can give to them will pay off in the long run.

Barrie said...

Thank you for the link! Re emotional scenes: In the first draft, I don't have enough emotion. However, I'm able to be meaner with each revision. ;)

Sandra Ferguson said...

I've never considered a time-limit for the emotional agony, but it's an interesting thought. I just watched Pretty In Pink again, yep, it was a slow Monday afternoon, but I found myself FF through those sections where Molly Ringwald had the rug pulled beneath her feet. It was painful to watch her suffer, when I already knew what would happen. But I've never considered rushing the moment for my characters (ending their agony). Normally, the pay-off for the pain is so tremendous it's worth the agony. Hope the readers feel that way.

Steve Malley said...

Ooh, thanks for showing me what I've been missing while my interwebs were broken!

Enter late, leave early is great advice: Never spend a single minute longer in a scene than you need to.

The key word, of course, is *need*. And therein lies our judgement and all that other messy stuff...

Captain Black said...

I love emotional scenes, both as a writer and a reader. It's what makes a really good book. No matter how strong your plot is and how much action there is, without an emotional scene or two, something is missing.

Thanks for the links you've been providing recently. I've been adding these to my database and they'll eventually be incorporated into the "Writing Resource Links" gadget on the NR blog.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Really interesting post - getting the balance right is so important, not to let all the energy go in one scene but to sustain some of the passion/anger/grief or whatever the emotion is to carry things forward. I like characters to be at sizzling distance with the sense they might combust at any moment :)

Rick said...

After reading such a wonderful post as yours, Liz, and Julie's on the mark comments, I have to tell you that I learned a lot just stopping by!

Jan said...

Thanks for some interesting links, Liz. Appreciated.

Calistro said...

Great post! I struggled with the same thing in "Heaven..." I liked my main character so much that I HATED throwing conflict and horrible things her way but, as a writer, you have to - that's your job! Think of it this way - by being really mean to your MC you're increasing the reader's sympathy for her.

I think if you feel an ache for her when something horrible happens that's a good sign - your reader will too.

So be brutal (if you can) - throw it all at her!

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