The Angst before the HEA

Happily married to my best friend many years now, I have to dig deep to remember the uncertainty of new love or unrequited love or betrayed love. Music helps me to reconnect to these various types of angts my hero or heroine may experience at the crisis point in the story–where all seems lost.

Adele’s award-winning song, SOMEONE LIKE YOU, draws me in. I feel her pain, and it becomes my own.

Listening to this song, I begin to imagine “What if.” What if my husband weren’t mine? What if he fell out of love with me and we parted ways? What if he then found someone new, someone to share a new beginning, leaving me behind to start over–alone? That’s when I sit down at my laptop and click away, the tears streaming down my face, feeling my character’s pain as my own. Exhausting? Yes, but I believe it makes a difference in the quality of my writing. The emotions are authentic, the character’s actions and dialogue match the depth of his/her despair.

Writers, what resources do you use to create authentic character responses at the crisis point in your story? 


19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catie Rhodes
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 13:25:35

    Method acting is definitely a great way to manufacture strong emotions. It does make a big difference in your writing if you can express the “real” emotion your characters are feeling. I often call up feelings of extreme fear and/or sadness for my writing. Like you, I use music to put myself in the mood.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 14, 2011 @ 17:24:47

      Method acting is a great suggestion, Catie. I generally listen to music only prior to writing. It puts me in the mood, and then I go full-force in silence.

  2. Nicole Basaraba
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 14:52:24

    Amazing blog post Jolyce. Looking forward to future Wednesday’s Romance Writer posts. I agree that when you can get a hold of the emotion or mind frame of your character, it takes the writing to a higher level. I haven’t had to write any moments that are too sad yet, but I just might listen to some music when I get to that part of my book.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 14, 2011 @ 17:32:34

      Hi Nicole! Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think music may work for other strong emotions, too. I’ve been thinking about researching which songs I’d recommend for different emotions, but do you think that may be too personalized to create a list that would work for most writers?

  3. jeff armstrong
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:32:00

    I was told by someone far smarter than me to always refer to my wife as my bride. That way I always imagine her, and present her to others, as she appeared on our wedding day when love was easy and new and she radiated beauty.. She still does not call me her groom, but at least she remembers my name.

  4. A. C. Cockerill
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 18:39:59

    Hi Jolyse, I’m another who has to act out the scene to get a handle on the feelings–always sobbing or giggling while getting the words down. If I’m calm, something’s dead wrong, and the scene isn’t working. Cheers, Ashley

  5. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 21:43:28

    YES I definitely am looking forward to more Wednesday Romance Writer days, Jolyse. Sounds so cool.
    I found Adele accidentally – had never heard of her – until the awards on t.v. And it was this song and my mouth just fell open. So, I went immediately to iTunes and bought three of her songs.
    I call up emotions from my past experiences. I never thought of using music. I may do that.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 15, 2011 @ 21:38:31

      I hear what you’re saying about using past experiences. I try that too, but sometimes the character’s situation is so out-of-my-reality I need more help creating that emotional depth.

      Adele is incredible, isn’t she?

  6. Tuere Morton
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 04:18:18

    Jolyse, I LOVE short posts! Especially when I’m on a post-hopping spree 🙂 When I’m writing a heart-wrenching scene, I put myself in the character’s place. I’ll re-read the scene from the beginning to get into the character (so to speak) and try to make her/him react how ‘I’ would. Then, I walk away and think about it and curtail it to that particular character’s personality thoroughout the story, keeping their age, background, etc. in mind. It’s quite the process. Thanks for making me think about it. And btw, Adele rocks!!! 🙂

  7. Julie Glover
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 10:18:28

    Using our memories and our fears can help us imagine what a character is going through. There is one scene I wrote that makes me tense and sad every time I read it, and I know it’s because what happens to her is one of my greatest fears. Even though I would not respond with the actions that my character takes, I can relate to the emotions that she feels.

    Also asking “What is the worst thing that could happen to me?” could be a great springboard for where to take a character and plotline.

    I look forward to more Romance Writer posts!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 15, 2011 @ 16:50:13

      Welcome to Wednesday Romance, Julie! Thanks for participating in the discussion. 🙂 Your comment reminds me of the first guest author presentation I ever attended at my RWA chapter group. Michele Lang spoke about writing what you fear. She had avoided writing a particular storyline for years, as it frightened her so much. Eventually, she gave in an wrote LADY LAZARUS. I’m very glad she did. I don’t generally connect with historical paranormal, but the authenticity and emotion drew me in.

      Thanks for your kinds words, and have a wonderful holiday season.

  8. Patty Blount
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 17:18:46

    Wonderful advice! Thank you for suggesting it, Jolyse!

  9. Marcia
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 17:32:43

    I love your new blog segment, Jolyse! I’m looking forward to the next one.
    I know so many romance writers that I’m begining to get the itch to write romance, too. I’m sure your posts will help me delve in.
    So, far I have drawn on past experiences to fuel my dialog and emotional upheavals. I have also asked, “what if?” to bring out some ideas to explore. Reading other books with intense scenes has helped, too, in knowing how to make it intense, what sort of things people say to each other, what kind of gestures they use for different emotions.
    Have a very happy holiday!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 16, 2011 @ 19:34:06

      Thanks for coming by, Marcia. Let the romance sweep you away. Like you, I read a lot, and am an avid people-watcher. I’m especially attuned to dialect, tone, and figures of speech.

      I wish you a wonderful holiday as well. 🙂

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