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Friday, July 28, 2006

Emotional Punch and a few discoveries...

I've been preparing for the re-start of my writing life, and reviewing previous rejections from HMB to remind myself of (and hopefully strengthen) my past weaknesses.

Both my submissions came back saying that I didn't have the high degree of emotional punch that HMB require. I've had 12 years to ponder the meaning of what the editors meant by 'emotional punch' (hereafter known as EP), and I'm pleased to say that I think I am finally getting it!

Fiona Harper has helped. She's recently blogged about EP, and she's used some excellent examples to show us what this enigma is. Well worth a read, even if you think you already know.

Recently, I've used other media (TV/Film etc.) to examine and research how exactly EP works. IMO you have to experience EP at work in order to capture the essence of it and recreate it in your own writing.

Today, watching the latest episode of 'Our New Life in Everwood', I felt a familiar lump in my throat as the latest EP event hit the characters' lives. Sitting here thinking about how they make it work so deeply, I suddenly had one of those 'light bulb' moments: Before you can hope to achieve emotional punch you must first create real life characters you really care about. Without this connection, no matter what our characters are going through it won't affect us in the slightest. We just won't care.

Now for an extra shocking discovery: EP isn't one single ingredient that you can sprinkle on your story to spice things up. It's much more than that. It's a combination of everything - characters, background, plot, action, narrative...

All these years I've believed that when the time comes for me to write again, all I have to do is repeat what I did before, but add a sprinkling of the magic ingredient - EP. D'oh! Since when is life ever that simple?!

Another revelation to hit me: EP is the reason writing is so tiring! EP is all about feelings. Whether they are emotional highs or lows, we really need to experience EP with our characters. This is exhausting!

Example: If our Hero is bereaved, we are grieving with him.
If our Heroine is hurting from a past relationship, we are sharing her pain.

In real life when we go through difficult times, it’s emotionally draining. So, now for the million-dollar question: If writing exhausts me, it must mean I'm doing something right, mustn't it?


Stacy Dawn said...

Yeah, some of my best stuff comes from the stuff I've cried through, laughed through or got overheated with ;)

Annie said...

I always thought emotional punch was some kind of alcoholic beverage that made you either very happy or very sad. I've got a such a LOT to learn.

Margaret McDonagh said...

Good luck getting back into the writing again, you can do it.

If you haven't seen it already, Trish Wylie has been running a series of really great posts on writing on her blog from characterisation to starting a novel to dialogue. Some really interesting and helpful advice there.

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Stacy, it's good to hear I'm not the only one.

Annie, ROFLOL!!! I can tell you're feeling better :-)

Thanks Mags, I'm on my way to Trish's blog...

Sue :-)

Karen Erickson said...

I agree - if the writing is emotionally draining then you're probably doing something right, LOLOL! :)

I'm starting a new book where it's going to need a lot of EP considering the plot, so this comes at a perfect time for me. I can only hope my wip will have enough. I just read a couple of books this past week and one of them brought tears to my eyes, it was so freakin' good! I can only aspire to that someday...

Good luck on your writing!

Devon Ellington said...

Non-writers don't realize how tiring it is. We're living all the characters, all the emotions, and all the events of our pieces, while, simultaneously, trying to keep an eye on the big picture.

It's a lot!

Good luck with realinging your writing life. I think you'll find that once you approach your work again with the life experience you've now gained, certain things will fall into place.

Melissa Marsh said...

Just surfed in...

When I read that you have picked up your pen again after being rejected so long ago, I thought, GOOD FOR HER! It will be different this time around - all the things you've learned in life and in the writing craft will come through in your writing. Best of luck to you. :-)

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Good luck with starting your new book, Karen. At this moment in time I don't feel like I'll ever move on from Ch. 4!

Devon, thanks for stopping by and thanks to Melissa for surfing in. Your comments and support are very much appreciated!