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Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Emotions Recap

Thanks to everyone for participating in my forum earlier this week, and my apologies for not getting results up sooner.  The week slipped away from me again.  Pesky days!

The question was: as writers, where do we mine our emotions?  From ourselves? From others?  If from others, why don't we work with our own?

You gave me lots of good responses, a number of which said that emotions came from inside and outside of themselves.  This makes sense, of course.  I think it would be impossible for someone to write completely outside of their own emotional experiences.  Of course, some of the physical experiences are beyond us (as Hart said, she's never randomly found a dead body even though she's writing her cozy), but that doesn't prevent the emotions from being real.  They just come from somewhere else.

One of the things I tend to worry about in my writing is that people will automatically assume it's autobiographical in some form.  (Random connection:  Has anyone read "The Young Painters" by Nicole Krauss in the 20 under 40 issue of The New Yorker?)  So I tend to try pulling from other experiences so that I can be more assured when fighting against those comments. 

Beyond outside criticism, using our own experiences does mean dealing with those feelings and emotions.  As j.leigh pointed out, that can be extremely difficult for us, throwing our real pain into our writing.  If I did more of that myself, I don't think I would ever finish a piece because I would be too angry or crying too much to get the words onto the page!  It doesn't make the emotions we use any less real, but it gives us more of an external position from which to approach them.  And as Amanda said, with time, using our own emotions and experiences can become less frightening.

Finding emotion everywhere is vital, since we've only lived in our small worlds.  But we shouldn't be afraid of using our own.

Any other thoughts?  Did I miss anything?

9 comments:

Ted Cross said...

I don't recall drawing any emotions from outside sources. I have an amazing amount of empathy; I've always been great at putting myself into other peoples' shoes, so I have no trouble imagining emotion in any scene, regardless of whether I have experienced whatever is happening. I guess that the amount of personal empathy a person has influences how they write.

Summer Ross said...

I agree that its vital to writing to use emotions, if we get there by using our own like me, or by using outside sources so be it...

Al said...

Your initial question is an interesting one.
I suppose the simplest answer is virtually all the events in my writing have no parallel in my own life. So strictly speaking virtually none of the emotion is mine. Yet I think most people are good at empathy, so I guess I use imagination/empathy to put myself in a situation I have never experienced.

Erica said...

I know I got it right when I catch myself crying, laughing, glaring, or texting my boyfriend something frisky. If I'm not actually living the emotions my characters are supposed to be having, I know it's blah. I pity anyone who has to deal with me after a rough chapter.

Jules said...

Nope, don't think you missed a thing. But I have a question. If we as writers try to imagine emotions from another are we not all the fiction writers?

Experience is the best teacher, bad or good. I love this question and answer thing you have going on by the way. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

RosieC said...

Jules, I must admit, your question feels gianormously philosophical, and I'm not sure I know what you're asking. Are we as individuals equal to all fiction writers?

Thanks, glad you liked the forum. I'm thinking about making it a regular feature :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Emotion is at the heart of both reading and writing for me - and life too come to think of it :)

Amanda Sablan said...

I think you summed it up perfectly, Rosie. As writers, we should look both inside and outside our selves. I guess what I was trying to say before is that if we look more to others, our writing may not feel as unique as it could be because we are all unique owing to all our own opinions and experiences. But of course we can empathize and try to imagine what some things are like. I sure as heck have not gone through ALL what my characters have.

Lynda Young said...

Writing is a reflection of life so emotions, as depicted in writing have to come from somewhere in life, whether from self or through observation. Yep, you summed it up well :)

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