Artists – painters, sculptors, authors, poets, et al – express emotion with their work.

Authors creating characters that show only one emotion is akin to painters rendering on the canvas in only one color, or at worst, only one hue of that color. Making lists of emotional attributes works for some authors; interviewing them works for others. Neither works for me.

My characters have to show me who they are. So I derive two scenarios: a positive one into which I introduce an element of increasingly negative degree, and a negative one into which I introduce an element of increasingly positive degree.

For example, a character, Jake, is at a restaurant with a long-time love. They are enjoying the evening, looking forward to the movie that is to follow.

  • Negative element: A man walks by, and Jake sees his love and the man exchange glances.
  • More negative element: After the exchange of glances, Jake hears a TM beep in her purse, and sees a slight, melancholy change in her expression.
  • Even more negative element: The man walks up to the table, sweeps her into his arms, and heartily plants a kiss on each cheek. He is introduced as an old friend.

I write the scene, each time with one of the negative elements and Jake’s reactions to that element. The scene will most likely not be in the story. I don’t take the time to write it perfectly. I merely want to evoke action from Jake so that he shows me who he is.

This time, I’ve tried to write the above scene for the heroine in my new story, but it isn’t working. She says she wouldn’t ever be in a situation with a long-time love.

Omigosh… Why the hell not?

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