Thursday, March 7, 2013

Emotions: Mix it Up

In romance, we want to see the characters reach their happily-ever-after, just as we want to see the puzzle solved in a mystery.

It's the mix of emotions in a story that keep us reading.  Two people meet.  There's an emotional element to that meeting.  Sometimes it's an attraction, sometimes it's instant dislike, and quite often it's a mix of both of those.

Let's face it.  Nobody wants to read a story of two perfect people, leading perfectly happy lives, where everything goes perfectly well.  Ugh!  What fun would that be?  And just how real is it?

The very best writers know the truth.
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But either it was different in blood—
~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 1, scene 1

Even Shakespeare knew to mix it up and take the characters through a romp of emotions.  It's the emotions of the characters and how they react to them that makes the story.

The path of romance can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, starting at a high, low, or even medium, then taking each character up an down emotionally throughout the story, yet ending at that happily ever after.

We each have emotions fighting for recognition within.  Something makes us happy, but when something else happens, we can be sad or angry.  We want our characters to feel the same, thus taking readers through that ride of emotions.  Without those emotions, characters and readers become apathetic.  Who wants to cheer for an emotionless hero or heroine?

But happy, sad, and angry aren't the only emotions humans feel.  Countless studies have been done on emotions.  One in particular, by psychologist Robert Plutchik, gives an excellent view of emotions and the depths of them in his Plutchick's Wheel of Emotion.
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The wheel shows the progression of simple emotions to deeper emotions and could be used to help set up your characters emotions from beginning to end.  But they won't stay with one emotion, because in the end, they both (hero and heroine) must reach that ecstacy or at least joy stage to be at that happily-ever-after ending.

Simple Example:
  • When the heroine first meets the hero, she might be annoyed with him or something about him.  Maybe she becomes or is angry at something he said or did.
  • For the hero at first meet, there could be boredom or even disapproval.
Switch those two around, and there are two different characters meeting for the first time.  Change one of the emotions--perhaps annoyance to apprehension, and there's another set.  Or one might have some interest in the other.  Keep them at odds.  Even if both are attracted, there needs to be an opposition to the other, even if only slight.

The characters must grow.  They need to have a wide range of emotions throughout the story.  There can be surprise, sadness, anticipation, fear (of own feelings or of what might come), and more.  They'll need some trust, both in themselves and the other.  There can be opposing emotions within a character--The I want but I can't have element.  They can feel the same emotions at the same time, but each emotion will move into another, different emotion with a different reaction.  Each character can have layered emotions, too.  A character could feel happiness, but there may be a sadness buried beneath it.

Dig deep.  While the wheel above gives us 32 emotions, there are many, many more that we, as humans, have.  Sometimes having a list can help, so below are three lists that might help, when trying to build your characters.

Emotions work both ways.  Your characters' emotions can help build their GMCs.  Turn that around and discover that GMC can help build emotions.  Emotions from instances in the past are connected to the present and the future.  GOAL is the future.  MOTIVATION is the past.  CONFLICT is the present.

Make your story emotional by giving characters a wide range of emotions.  Your readers will love you!

"All literature shows us the power of emotion, It is emotion, not reason, that motivates characters in literature." ~ Duff Brenna

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