Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Characters and emotions

Do your characters show conflicting emotions? Sometimes mine do, and it's always a struggle to figure out how to show it rather than to tell it. For example, in my novel, The Year of The Scream, AJ, the MC, has conflicting emotions about Celine, the antagonist. Celine seems to hate AJ for no reason that AJ can think of, but while she dislikes what Celine is doing to her, she doesn't really hate her. Yet, when the time comes that she can get back at Celine by revealing some devastating news, AJ hesitates. She wants everyone to know who and what Celine really is, but on the other hand, she doesn't want to become the kind of person Celine is.

According to Nancy Kress's book, "Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint," you have to show in some way that the character is capable of a "change of heart." She says that you can show this in three different ways: by showing the conflicting emotions in different scenes; showing them in the same scene; or instead of showing, you can tell in an exposition which explains why the character has these confusing or conflicting emotions.

In the first way, we can use the example of two girls who like the same boy. Jane used to be friends with Kathy, but once Robert made it clear he liked Kathy, Kathy turned against Jane and started belittling her. Jane now dislikes Kathy as well as being jealous of her. Jane goes to a dance with another boy and sees Kathy there with Robert. She feels hurt and angry because she still likes Robert. Then she sees Robert kissing still another girl while Kathy is waiting for him inside the dance. Jane then realizes she is feeling both pity and protectiveness towards Kathy, and wishes that Kathy would see Robert for the two-timer he is.

Stay tuned for an explanation of the second way to show conflicting emotions in your characters!

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