Writing with Emotion by Duncan Lay

If you’re a budding author, then I’m sure you’ve either gone through courses or at least read a few books about writing. I don’t think I have any insights beyond what is already available on the internet. But I can tell you what works for me. If anyone asks me advice about writing, I always tell them the best thing is to keep writing. The more you write, the better you get at it.Obviously you need to have the strongest characters you can create. Great characters always trump a great story. If you can have a great story as well, then you are laughing! Yet I also feel there’s more to the process than ‘just’ coming up with great characters and storylines. I try to write with emotion.

I have written before about how I write on the train, as I commute to and from Sydney. As I write, I listen to music on the iPod. But I do try and match what I am listening to, to what I am going to write. As I have said before, something like Coldplay works well for me during character scenes, while a spoty of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck is fantastic for a battle. But I also try to recall emotions from films. Now these don’t have to be an inspiration for your book. They don’t even have to be anywhere near the same genre. But they do have to evoke something in you. You can stumble on these by chance or you can go searching for them. You can build up a personal memory bank of these films, and what they evoke in you. The choice is yours. What I like to do is then recall them when I’m writing, to tap into what they stirred within me, and try to communicate some of that into the writing.

Now I’m not saying you rip off a bunch of scenes from random movies and rewrite them. No, I’m only talking about the emotion YOU feel. Pick up on that and invest that into your writing. Different films mean different things to different people. But, to give you an example: one of the strong undercurrents in Bridge Of Swords is Sendatsu’s desire to get back to his children and his willingness to do anything for them. There were two films in particular that I recalled during writing that book. One was A Very Long Engagement, where Audrey Tautou searches for her lover who disappeared into the horror of World War I. In particular the end, when she finds him, the culmination of years of searching, and the way she walks out to him ’and sits and watches’. You don’t see an emotional reunion but I feel the longing, the overwhelming relief, the desire to throw yourself at them and yet contain all that because they wouldn’t understand. A second was Inception and the very end, when Leonardo DiCaprio returns to his children and starts to check to see if this is all a dream – and then walks away before his control device can give him the answer. Because, at that point, he doesn’t care if it is a dream or not. He is reunited with his children and that is all that matters. It doesn’t matter if you watch those films and feel nothing. They meant something to me and so I tried to invest that into the writing.

This whole technique may mean nothing to you – but I use it all the time. If you can put real emotion into the writing, you can invest it with a little more truth. Yes, I know this is fantasy I write – but it still needs some truth. Of course you don’t need to get those emotions from film – but it adds something I feel. Emotions from songs are powerful, from real life are also powerful but, to me, movies can be visually recalled easily. I replay that scene, tap into what it makes me feel and then write. It works for me – and you are welcome to try it!

This post originally appeared on Duncan’s own blog, where you can find other writing tips and fun stuff!

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