I visited NYC over the weekend and on the long plane ride I spent my time reading a novel by RaeAnne Thayne. The emotion was marvelous and it brought to mind that I'd once interviewed her for another blog. I emailed and asked permission to share that interview with you. And she graciously agreed.
If you want to write great emotion, here's the master!
The Power of Emotion: What to do to increase the intensity of your story with emotion. Special Guest RaeAnne Thayne, 2009 RITA finalist and author of more than thirty books. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA nominations and a career achievement award from Romantic Times. She will tell us what her trick is for emotion.
Mary: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed today RaeAnne. You’ve done many a workshop on The Power of Emotion. So I’m going to do this interview a little different and more or less just ask you to give a mini blog workshop instead. I hope that is okay with you?
RaeAnne: No problem. Thanks so much for having me.
Mary: Before we start, could you tell us a bit more about you as an author? Where we can find you etc.
RaeAnne: I started writing in 1990 when I was home on maternity leave with my oldest child and my first sale, a two-book contract, in 1995 to Bantam Loveswept. Since then, I've written thirty-two more for Loveswept, Silhouette Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense and currently write mostly for Silhouette Special Edition. My books are just about everywhere.
Mary: Please tell us about The Power of Emotion and how you use this in your writing.
RaeAnne: Thanks for asking, Mary. This is a very condensed version of a workshop I'm actually giving this weekend at the New Jersey RWA conference.
My favorite scene in the Disney movie Aladdin is near the end when Jafar, the wicked sorcerer, is consumed with greed and ambition and uses his last wish to become a genie. As the shackles clank onto his wrist and he begins to be sucked into the whirling vortex of the lamp, he suddenly remembers all that goes with that particular gig. I love Aladdin's words as he parrots Genie from earlier in the movie – Anybody remember what he says?
"Phenomenal cosmic power ... Itty bitty living space."
Word counts are shrinking across category and single title programs. As writers struggle to adapt, we sometimes forget that since the beginning of storytelling, what our readers have always turned to our novels to find is that emotional connection they make with our characters. That tug to the heart. That awww moment that you want to savor and stretch out as long as possible. So how can writers bring that to the page? Unfortunately, there's no single magic solution. I wish I could make it that easy by saying "hey, do this and your book will brim over with emotion." I can't. Instead, it's more important than ever that you hone every single writing tool at your disposal and never, ever, ever lose sight of the power of emotion you should be creating with every single word.
Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself about your current manuscript:
✓ WOW CHARACTERS: This is the most basic element, but are my characters compelling, vivid, larger-than-life people that my readers can easily relate to? Even if they're aliens or shapeshifters or demons, do they possess emotional depth that resonates with my readers?
✓ EMOTIONAL HONESTY: Do my characters cycle through their emotions responsibly? No depth-of-despair stuff one second, then a hot, steamy love scene the next, with no transitional moment for the reader? (FMI, see Robert Plutchik's wheel of emotions, http://www.fractal.org/Bewustzijns-Besturings-Model/Nature-of-emotions.htm)
✓ TRUE CONFLICT: Have I created a conflict between my H/H that cannot be resolved without flaying them open, digging deeply into their psyche and exploring their innermost fears and insecurities?
✓ PROPER PACING: Have I paid careful attention to proper pacing, interspersing moments of raw emotion with levity or sweetness or quiet reflection? Have I taken my readers on a truly thrilling roller coaster ride? Are there small bumps leading to bigger hills until they reach that final stomach-clenching ascent on the way toward the plunge of the dark moment and then the happily-ever-after slowing down to the ride's exit?
✓ DIALOGUE: Have I used dialogue appropriately to best convey my characters' moods and emotions? Not just what they say but how they say it: Terse, hard words during moments of anger; softer, rounder sentences in times of reflection or quiet sharing?
✓ POINT OF VIEW: Is the point-of-view character I've chosen in a given scene the appropriate one to best intensify the emotional arc? (Sometimes it's best to show a scene through the character with the most emotion at stake. But sometimes moments of deep angst and raw emotion in a heroine can be better shown through the hero's eyes, which not only gives the reader a little breathing space from the pain but shows the hero's reaction to those deep emotions in the heroine. And vice versa, of course!).
✓ SETTING: Have I truly utilized setting as effectively as possible to enhance the emotions my characters are experiencing? Weather, time of day, physical location -- all can be used to reflect the emotional mood -- or conversely, to highlight a character's feelings in an unexpected way for the reader, like a scene at a graveyard in brilliant sunlight that only seems to make the character's grief more raw and real in contrast.
✓ THE WRITING! Have I "layered in lusciousness" as Barbara Samuel so eloquently puts it, by using all sensory tools at my disposal to accentuate my characters' emotions through texture and scent and color? (FMI, http://awriterafoot.typepad.com/a_writer_afoot/2007/10/layering-in-lus.html)
✓ LIVE THE EMOTION Finally, have I been willing to dig as deeply as I can -- in my characters' psyches and in my own -- to explore the wide range of feelings inside us all? If I tend to shy away from intense emotions in my life, am I willing to overcome that instinctive self-protective mechanism in order to allow my characters to experience reactions that might personally frighten me?
Even with shortened word counts, I promise that if we can pay a little more careful attention to all those writing tools at our disposal, our stories will sing with emotion. We will create beautiful, inspiring stories that touch people's hearts.
Mary: Thank you, RaeAnne, again for your wonderful insight into Emotion! RaeAnne's Blog is: http://raeannethayne.blogspot.com/ if you'd like to check it out!