I have been reading and attending workshops. I read The Writers Journey and Larry Brooks’ book about Story Engineering and Story Physics. Most helpful is a book I found through Facebook by Cheryl St. John; Writing with Emotion, Tension & Conflict. If you read the reviews they are all over the place and all of it true.
Here is my review of the book. Yes, she does talk a lot about movies, and suggests you watch a number of them. Some I’ve seen. I see her point and I heartily endorse them. Movies have plot points. Larry Brooks books are the same, calling out movies to supplement his points. Once you can see these points and call them out, you will begin to see them in your own story or you will see the need for them.
I have pages marked and underlined as I begin to write this Detective Novel. It needs emotion and tension. Here is my big AHA moment. It is for me a key to writing emotion. While I have figured this out for the most part, I now see it for what it is.
Motivation-Feeling-Action-Speech I’m going to quote this section from Cheryl’s book. Motivation must always come before reaction. Have you ever been passing a car in a parking lot when the owner remotely locks the doors causing the horn to blare? I bet you jumped. The horn led to the jump. A startled person doesn’t decide to jump; he simply jumps. However speech demands a conscience thought. Although you might make a sound as a reaction.
Here is an example:
Motivation-George produces a package wrapped with a ribbon and a bow.
Feeling-Harriet focused on the gift. It wasn’t a special occasion or anything.
Action-She accepted the gift and met his eyes
Speech-“What’s this for?”
Motivation-“I saw it and thought of you.”
Feeling-A warm glow of appreciation suffused her.
Speech- “Thank you”
I get by now you’re saying, “Oh that’s no big thing, I do that all the time.” DO YOU? This is a basic example, but stop and read some of what you wrote. Do you have at least most of the format down? I’ll bet you skip a few of the lines thinking the reader will fill in what you meant. Will they?
Writing with emotion and tension means slowing the reader down to read and feel. The only way to do it is to use the format.
The footsteps came closer.
Mary flattened her back against the wall next to the door and stared at the door knob.
Her heart beat faster and harder
Footsteps stopped and the door handle turned.
Mary’s hand flew to her mouth as she tried to stop the scream
“Mary I hear you” his singsong voice whispered through the opening door.
Following the pattern set, leads the reader to feel more emotion. Instead of hoping the reader will “get it.”