Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emotional Recycling


Most of the time when I write my scenes, I tend to put myself in that character's shoes and feel what they feel. But once in a while, I will suck a bit of emotional memory out of my own life and put them on the pages.

Honestly though? I don't do that very often.

How about you? Has the worst day of your life or your happiest moment been somehow captured on your pages of writing? Or will you keep those to yourself?

Also, don't forget to check out Deb Salisbury's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post on how she handles giving out critiques. If you missed them, check out Laura's post, mine, and Sarah's!

67 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

I'm sure there are times that I have. When I've felt extreme fear or guilt or joy - I try to remember and put that in my writing.

AlexOngNYC said...

I go through the same thing. Sometimes I'm feeling what my character is feeling and then I realize my own emotions and memories have taken over. It gets a little scary every now and then.

Alex
Breakfast Every Hour

Sarah said...

I think you can't get away from it completely, even if you believe you can. That's just not how our minds work. Thought-provoking question!

Anne Gallagher said...

I do it all the time. I think it's what keeps my characters emotionally grounded. If I felt it, they can too.

vbtremper said...

Oh absolutely, my high points and low points end up in my novels. It's cathartic, for one thing, and makes for great fiction.

jbchicoine said...

I don't write any scenes similar to my life's happiest or saddest moments, but I sure do draw from the emotions...

Indigo said...

I often refer to writing as bleeding myself dry on the page.
To me, diving into your own emotional pool gives insight to draw those emotions out of a character. Then again, I have a deep reservoir with which to dip my muse ladle.

Our characters allow us to explore resolutions, we might not have had the courage to tackle in real life. (Hugs)Indigo

Christine Fonseca said...

I think it is so common to emotionally bleed on the page, don't you?

Angela Felsted said...

I totally do it. Not all the time, but when I can pull it off, I feel like the words really come alive.

Alesa Warcan said...

I do this too...

I'm at my most comfortable writing when I am simply voicing what I'm seeing/feeling/experiencing from the character's perspective. Which is why I often find myself writing things in first person and then switching (and adapting) into third person afterwards for narrative reasons.
Some writers, from what I've read, have relationships with their characters, as if they were independent entities in their own rights... for me all my characters are thinly veiled, and often heavily exagerated/modified aspects of myself.

Jess said...

You know, I don't usually draw on specific experiences, but the emotions I write about are all influenced by my interpretation of fear, joy, love, etc. And that interpretation comes directly from my experiences, so I guess it kind of happens naturally.

Kelly said...

Yes, I have thought back to instances to help express myself better in words.
Though my life is boring enough that I have to write about mostly new experiences! :) But down the road, I have a YA idea loosely based on a spring break trip on a sail boat that I took with three other friends in high school. So I will definitely be looking back and thinking about how I felt and what I did!

Carol Kilgore said...

I've never used an incident and the emotion I felt together as a whole. I have used whole incidents and pieces of incidents but put them together in different ways or made the accompanying emotion different from the real thing. But I often use the real incident to remind myself of how I felt if I'm having difficulty with a character's emotion.

Heather Hellmann said...

Bits and pieces of my life end up in my manuscript. For example, when I was a child I spent a lot of time in the hospital. At one point in my story, one of my characters ends up in a children's hospital. When I described it, I recalled details I remembered from the hospital I used to stay at. Even the dancing clown wallpaper :)

Matthew Rush said...

Absolutely. Never blatantly, or explicitly, but the emotions are always there, just beneath the surface.

Linda Kage said...

I remember I did that once and a critique reader said the characters sounded too whiny. Made me leery to do it again. But maybe do that is a sign of a good author, one who'll put themselves out there at the risk of getting burned!!

Magan said...

Sometimes when I'm having a bad day I find that my writing gets darker than intended. Sometimes it works and sometimes I have to scrap the whole thing.

T C Mckee said...

I try to create characters that are original and not like anyone I know. But occasionally I can go back and see a comparison here or there. I only use some of my own emotional moments in life to get a better feel for what the character might be going through and better describe it that way. I guess we all do this whether we mean to or not. Great post.

mist of the blossom rain said...

To be able to but your emotions into the story sounds very interesting. I think it would definitely make the story much more interesting!

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

I inflict my emotions onto most of my poor characters.

Meredith said...

Once, the day after a break up, I wrote a demonic imp into my story. It's my favorite part of the book now. :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Nothing that happens in the life of a writer is a waste. We recycle it into our stories -- whether we realize it or not. How could we not. Bruises, emotional and physical, leave their mark on our muse, the way we perceive life and others. As always, you have a thought-provoking post, Roland

Raquel Byrnes said...

I do that sometimes. Especially when the reason a situation came to me for the book is because I lived something similar. Its sort of cathartic.

Munk said...

I suck AND blow like other people breathe.

Heather said...

Everything I experience is fodder for the page. While I certainly haven't used it all there's always a chance I will!

Sarah said...

Yes, but even more so when I'm writing in first person. It's kind of like acting where you take on the character and imagine yourself as someone else, but using your own experiences to relate to/ draw from. But I really use a lot more of what I've seen in other people or what I remember seeing in my childhood, etc.

Carol Riggs said...

I think I use the raw emotions themselves rather than specific (or even general) instances. Like, I write what I've felt to the UNDERLYING emotions of the scene--feeling rejected, feeling fearful, feeling lonely, feeling tired, etc. So, not necessarily in that situation, but the core reasons for those emotions. Like you, I try to put myself as the character in the scene. I suppose this works better sometimes than others. :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Although I write poetry not novels I too get pangs of guilt when I am writing about certain things.

Loved the post.
Yvonne,

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Although I write poetry not novels I too get pangs of guilt when I am writing about certain things.

Loved the post.
Yvonne,

Holly Ruggiero said...

I keep those to myself, but I do call on fringe emotions.

Old Kitty said...

Oooh I can never invest my personal memories of emotional times with my characters in case I erm.. infect them with my maudling!!! LOL!!!

Oooh lots of links!! Thank you!! Will check them out over the weekend!! Take care x

Catherine Lavoie said...

I definitely try to put myself in my character's shoes and feel what they're feeling. And if I've been through something similar, it makes it that much easier to write the scene. But I don't think I've ever tried to recapture specific events from my life. Thanks for the links! :)

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! i dont put my most worse stuff on my characters. but i share out with them being scared or sad or happy. mostly i dont want my stories to get all caught in way deep emotion stuff. i could want just enough so a reader could feel it but not get upset cause of it.
...hugs from lenny

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I suppose there's a little bit of my feelings in there, but I mostly just put myself in their shoes.

Sondrae Bennett said...

My characters all have parts of me in them but usually speak for themselves. I always put myself in their shoes to write. Usually most of it comes from them.

Krispy said...

I think I'm the same as you. If I really need the emotional jolt, I might try to think back to a time in my life with similar emotions, but it's usually not a conscious decision.

Lynn Andrade said...

Thinking back, I can only recall a single scene that I've written that I've drawn directly from my life. All the other emotions and feeling I've written are extreme extrapolations of the everyday emotions and feelings.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I usually try to put myself in the character's shoes, but I'm sure what I'm relating back to is experiencing a similar emotion at some point in time.

Melissa said...

I feel everything my characters feel. I channel their emotions and write what they're feeling. But since they come from me first I guess they take the emotion from me in the first place... actually I don't really how this works at all!

Catherine Denton said...

The emotion I've used. The actual moment I haven't.

Yet. ;)

Connie said...

I think I have the opposite problem. I take my characters' emotions into my world. I do the same thing with books I read.

Ghenet said...

I don't have my characters go through exactly what I've been through, but I give them emotions I've experienced.

lbdiamond said...

I'm sure my emotional point of view comes out in my characters... On the other hand, I do see my characters as separate "people" from me, with their own thoughts, feelings, and reactions to situations.

Nice post!!!

KatyDid said...

Hmm.

I think my characters and their emotions/reactions are… INFORMED by my life experience. But they’re not necessarily me or anything to do with me.

Which is why it’s always amazing to me when I wrote a character that is almost 100% NOT me and everyone assumes that I’m putting myself into it. That it’s my pain or something I’ve inserted into this wretched character.

I should probably take it as a compliment…

Emy Shin said...

I'm sure I must have done it unconsciously while writing, but I don't think I have ever set out writing my own life moments. :)

L'Aussie said...

Don't they say that every first novel is an autobiography? Thoughtful post.

Denise:)

Katie Gates said...

There's so much fodder in life. Characters are everywhere. As for my personal "stuff," I spread it around, sometimes letting several characters share my experiences or feel my feelings, each in their own way.

Medeia Sharif said...

I put my real emotions in my manuscripts. I don't write what happened to me verbatim. I use the emotions that I experienced, not the exact scenarios.

Katherines Corner said...

Hello, I enjoyed my visit to your lovely blog. Wishing you happiness Hugs, Katherine

Faith said...

This is something I need to do more often. Sometimes I'm afraid to revisit old emotions, or I don't want to access those parts of me. But in order to keep the story true and realistic, I need to remember what it feels like to have true grief, or desperation, or deep love. It's tough!

kangaroobee said...

I haven't deliberately put something real in a story, but a pb I wrote last year about a Lion that goes on a rampage could have been something to do with my 2yr old. My MIL thought it was me, ha ha! I'm sure my subconscious wrote that story. I've written other stories with real places and people from my childhood, like family dog walk, and funnily enough that is the only one that is soon to be published. I think the more life-like your basics are the more original it might be.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Im back! and I missed you! Needed a break...
Onto your question. I find that tidbits of my life show up in my stories, things that only I tend to pick up on and occasionally someone very close to me will grasp. It is sometimes an important date (calendar kind) or phrase I've used. I try to keep my emotions out of their situation because how I would respond isn't how my characters respond. Easier said than done because I have to draw on an emotion I know. But, as a general rule for me, I do my best to keep my feelings out of the way and allow them to react how they would react to situations.

Ciara said...

I have pulled from painful moments in my life to better torture my characters, but I never include personal info.

Kerri Cuev said...

I think emotional moments help me to relate to characters at times.
ps left you a blogger award :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

I use the same emotions, but not the same circumstances. We can't really understand the other person IMO, unless we have SOME frame of reference. :D

LTM said...

I honestly never use exact things from my own life, but I know they must seep into the swirl somehow when I'm writing. I think that's part of our writerly voice, yes? :o) <3

Olga said...

It's strange how, when you write a blog post, you re-live the situation you're describing emotionally.

Mary Lindsey said...

Fantastic post. I use the Stanislavsky Method approach I used in theatre to my characterization in novels. No matter how remote that character is, my own experience has to be there somewhere to make it believable.

Jonene Ficklin said...

You know, the few times I did that in early works (using childhood traumas), even though I thought I changed it enough, my siblings and parents saw right through it and wanted to talk. : ) Up until then, I found that part therapeutic, but after . . . I decided to let my imagination lead the way. But still, it's hard to keep it completely impersonal. That's a hard one. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

Bess Weatherby said...

Oh I do that more than I should, but since I can spot those moments they usually get cut in a revision. More of a springboard for thought than anything else. Nice to meet you via the crusade,

Colene Murphy said...

I never do it intentionally. Like, I did model one character after my best friend, but anything else with my MS's has been by accident...

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

Funny you should ask. I just wrote about the most embarrassing day of my life (so far) which happened today. My whole blog is a "real life" series of unfortunate events. ;-)

Hema P. said...

Good question! Hmmm... I haven't been writing for long enough time to say for sure what my usual modus operandi is... but for now, I haven't used my own emotional experiences in my novel. However, I have liberally used the town in which I lived during my childhood for six years, and loved obviously, as my inspiration for the backdrop for my MG novel.

Becky Wallace said...

When I write female MCs, I'm part of the scene. It doesn't happen as much when I write guys.

Robert Guthrie said...

Generally my characters' experiences are their own.

Heather Taylor said...

Whatever I feel, my characters are generally the opposite of. It puts much more of life into perspective that way. Even if I feel like dirt, I can at least birth happiness into someone else.

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