Tips and Tricks to Writing Emotions

Are Emotions Absent in your Scenes? If they aren’t, don’t look now, but you just lost your readers.

by Deborah Owen

There are tips and tricks to writing emotions. As a creative writer, you must feel the mood you’re writing. This is imperative if you want to reach your audience. How can you do that? By experiencing the mood.

Let’s suppose you want to write a scene that displays anger. Maybe the story is about abuse, a mom and dad arguing, or sibling rivalry. Maybe it’s about a girl breaking up with her boyfriend because he was cheating on her. If the scene is intense, you have to get into the mood. I mean red, piping hot angry.

Remember the guy or gal that dumped you 30 years ago? Remember the time you had a bad dream about your pal and you wouldn’t speak to him/her all day? How about when you got steamed at the boss, or got into a heated argument over politics, world affairs, abortion, women’s rights, etc.? As a writer, you must recapture those emotions and write them into your scenes. It should be so real that you attend anger management classes to get over it.

Do you need to be happy? Then think of some happy occasions. Sing a crazy song as loud as you can. Laugh like an idiot! When you begin laughing at yourself, it’s time to write that joy into your scene.

Another way to develop absent emotions is to imagine yourself as the character and write entries in a diary from his/her point of view. Live the make-believe life. Do whatever it takes to crawl into your character’s skin. You can’t write effectively what you don’t know or aren’t in the mood for. (You can, however, write a draft for the scene and come back to build it in a more realistic way later.)

Remember that your protagonist (main character, hero) and antagonist (villain) must be three-dimensional characters. They must have a past and a future; they must have problems in their lives and they must work through those issues like real, live people. Your characters should be real enough to walk off the page and sit next to the reader. If your reader can’t identify with the characters, he or she will probably not continue reading.

When my daughter was 16 years old, it was not uncommon for her to sit cross-legged on the floor and bawl her eyes out over a dramatic TV show. One night I winked at my husband and said, “That actress is playing her part really well, isn’t she?” He picked up on it and we talked back and forth about the actress’ career and wondered out loud what movie she would be in next – although she just died in that scene.

Our daughter turned around, tears dripping off her cheeks, and said, “Quit it, you guys. You’re ruining the show!” But what she really meant was, “I’m into the character. I feel what she is feeling. Don’t move me out of the scene.”

If your characters aren’t three-dimensional, (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) you’ll lose your readers. Put yourself into the mood and into the groove. Live what you write.

How do you best write emotions? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to to find out about our creative writing courses!

You can find me online at http://www.deborahowen.wordpress or deborahowen on Twitter. Don’t forget to “like” us before you leave! Click on the title to leave a comment. Thank you!

Carving a Pumpkin is like Writing a Book or a Short Story

Just one more article on fall before we jump into Thanksgiving and Christmas. This one is by by Julie Canfield, a CWI Volunteer.


You’ve got to love fall. The cool temperatures, shorter days, colorful leaves, football, and little kids in costumes.

Carving a pumpkin is so much like writing. Think about it. Before we can carve a pumpkin, we have to pick one. We go to the patch and look at hundreds until we find the perfect one. We take it home, study it, and painstakingly draw the face in pencil. Satisfied with the sketch, we cut the top and scoop out the insides. Next, we carve the face and place a lighted candle inside.

Now think about writing a book or a story. We sit down, ready to write, full of ideas. At last, we choose one. We decide what genre and length we want, and unleash the words, like sketching a face on a pumpkin. Satisfied, we take the next step in editing, which is akin to cutting the lid on the pumpkin. It’s time to scoop it out, inspect it, and scoop some more. At last, we’re ready to polish (carve the face) and submit (light the candle, which scares away the evil spirit of writer’s block).

We writers are in some phase of pumpkin carving every day. We’re always finding ideas, thinking about writing, editing, polishing or submitting, even when we’re not physically working on it.

Carving a pumpkin is tedious, messy, time consuming, and frustrating. It takes energy and thoughtful planning to achieve the face we envision. Writing takes time, too – planning, editing, frustratingly searching for words, sucking our energy, and messing with our minds until we finally give birth to that book or story.

As writers, we are blessed to have the daily chance of finding a pumpkin (story idea) that we can carve (write). The world turns, the seasons move on. Fall changes to winter but we have a way to connect to the wonderful season of autumn whenever we want.

*Julie Canfield is an aspiring writer who currently lives in Richmond, Va. She shares her domicile with her husband, daughter, one cat, and two dogs. She has published short stories and articles on the web and in literary reviews.

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