Writing emotions, properly expressing them through characters, is a trick that is difficult to pull off without resorting to silliness. One thing that I think is really useful for writing the emotions of characters, is understanding your own inner-life. Knowing thyself; if you will, is paramount for successfully writing characters who are realistically portrayed on the page.
I think that whenever someone wants to write a story, the first thing that is pounded into their brain is the “show, don’t tell” idea. I do think that it’s useful, when you are first starting, to remind yourself that the person who is going to read your story won’t be able to see through your eyes. Maybe a better way to put that is your readers won’t be existing in your head. They will be flesh and blood people (hopefully) who will want to know what things look, feel, taste and smell like. So it’s always important to breathe as much life into your world for them as you can.
Personally, I find that life is ripe with story. Inspiration happens around every corner and is waiting in every crevice that I chance to look. It wasn’t always that way for me, though. There was a time, and maybe it will come again, where I felt like my head was full of static. When I tried to put two thoughts together, they would just fall apart again, and it felt pointless to attempt anything.
One thing that I noticed when I first got serious about writing was that there are really two camps out there. There are the plotters, who know what is going to happen in every scene before they put pencil to paper, and there are the pantsers (or discovery writers) who will just start writing and “see where it goes.”
Close reading is a skill that is taught to every English Major in their first really heavy class, it’s an entire class, covering different types of stories. The class that I took about literary analysis went over a Shakespearean play, some short stories, poetry and a novel. We looked at ways to analyze all of these different texts, and how to dissect all of them.
I decided to look into the different plot types, because, honestly, I’m really familiar with Freytag’s Pyramid, which I have written about before, and The Hero’s Journey, which I tried to follow step-by-step when I attempted my first novel. I’ve seen mention of the three-act-structure, and I hadn’t really thought much of it, assuming it was more for playwrights or screenwriters than novelists. But, when I took a look at it, it’s really similar to Freytag’s pyramid.
As a layperson, an aspiring writer, a starting out writer, with no education beyond high school (at the time) I expected, somehow, to be able to produce art at the same level that professionals who have been honing their craft for years are making. It didn’t make a lot of rational sense, but people do it all the time, with writing specifically.
Most people know when a sentence “feels” off. Read it out loud. It’s been said so many times, especially when you are writing essays for college classes, read them out loud and change the sentences you stumble over. I think that is a great way to do your first run through, editing-wise.
I’m here to tell you that is crap. That is negative BS that your mind is feeding you, because, for some reason, we writers have an extra-large helping of self-doubt rolling around in our psyches. If you are a living, breathing human, you have something to write about. Writing in a journal is a great way to practice in a low-stakes way.
But goals without plans are simply dreams, as they say. And the first step, the first tool in any writer’s toolbox, is the sharpened pencil that allows us to write every day.