Emotional Writing

staglieno-664597_960_720

The first book that ever made me cry was Charlotte’s Web. At age ten, I wept for a dead spider, my tender initiation into literary grief. I still remember the cathartic feeling of those tears and the sense that I’d touched something profound and mysterious to the human experience. Did E.B. White intend to change the course of a little girl’s life? Hmm…the power of books…

As an adult, I earned a degree in pastoral counseling and volunteered in several capacities as a grief counselor. I journeyed alongside children and families who’d suffered the death of a parent or sibling, and the elderly who would soon embark on their own profound and mysterious transitions. The unsolved murder of my youngest brother in 2003 brought the whole experience home, up close and personal.

So, what does this have to do with writing? As a reader, emotional authenticity is key to my immersion in a story. I swear I can tell if a writer is baring his heart on the page, or regurgitating sentiment witnessed on a movie screen. This doesn’t mean that we as writers must personally endure every painful loss that our characters’ experience. Loss is loss, fear is fear, and they’re often transferable with a little imagination (of which we artists have plenty).

What it means to me is that we have to be willing to fully travel those paths when they present themselves, in life, and yes, in those great books (and movies) that strum our heartstrings. We need to be explorers of our emotional pain, brave enough to embrace it, to pick it apart and feel its sting. We need to dig into the fear that underlies our emotional wounds and speaks ultimately to the human condition—that each of us is here only temporarily. That we matter immensely and matter not at all.

There are days of writing and crying, snot-nosed and puffy-eyed, breathing through my mouth with a roll of toilet paper at my elbow. When I write about loss or pain or a main character’s death, I know where my tears originate. I hope that if someday you read such a scene, you’ll be genuinely moved. Then I’ll have done my job.

103 thoughts on “Emotional Writing

  1. reocochran says:

    Yes, there are authors who connect well with their own emotions so they are able to bring their readers to heights of joy and depths of despair. I have respect for your emotional connection with your characters. You make them come alive with your caring about them, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember that book so well! Reading can have such an impact on a life. Your writing is real and always from the heart! I love this post! I can imagine you doing that job very well and being a natural!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed this post right now, as I am reviewing my work in progress to track the main character’s emotional journey. Often the emotions seems so obvious to me, but I’ve learned readers don’t often see it that way. Thank you for reminding me of where the writing needs to come from.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, Ellen. I agree that when we write we feel the emotions so obviously that we don’t always remember to write them down. Writer’s groups and beta readers are great at pointing those lapses out. Thanks for the visit. Happy Thanksgiving ❤

      Like

  4. Erika Beebe says:

    What a beautifully moving post. Thank you. I also am a character driven reader and writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. inesephoto says:

    This post explains why your books are so wonderful, Diana.
    Best wishes to you! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ali Isaac says:

    It’s amazing how writing can do that to us… whisk us away when the pain becomes too much to bear, or bleed it onto the page. Its done both for me. And I truly believe it saved my life and gave me back a modicum of self esteem. I’m sorry for the loss of your brother. It must be so hard to live without justice. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a believer in karma, Ali. The life of someone who is cruel enough to steal another’s future must be a wretched life indeed. So, on to lighter topic…like crying our eyes out on our laptops (ha ha). Writing is catharctic, isn’t it? We learn from our characters and the stories we need to tell, and hopefully, in the process, touch others as well. ❤

      Like

  7. dgkaye says:

    What a fantastic post Diana. I didn’t know you had background in the grief department, and I’m sorry for the loss of your brother. 😦 You’ve demonstrated the point so well about having the feeling of deep emotion come across the page as real and lived. I know this well writing memoirs. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Antonia says:

    Wonderful post Diana! I also cried over the spider’s death, but was overjoyed at the new life that was created. You are right, it is truly beautiful when a writer can succeed at this. Have a lovely day!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely post, Diana. I can write evil, terror, and humor, but death is difficult for me. I sometimes suffer from depression. I’m working on it. I know its necessary to kill off some characters but If they’re good people it’s hard for me. Many of my characters are similar to cartoons like my aliens. They keep coming back like Daffy Duck. In my memoir, I wrote about the death of my parent’s pet cat and that was hard. I gave a warning to readers as I understand they don’t like the death of animals but life is sometimes heartrending. 😐 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you about how hard it is to kill off characters. I cry and cry and cry. It’s something that we gear up for and suffer through and it’s that authentic emotion that captures the reader. I’m sure your memoir will be full of heart. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Steven Baird says:

    Wonderful post, Diana. There’s nothing more satisfying than hitting the emotional high (and low) points that are genuinely moving… when the characters become so real that you want to brush their tears away.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Annika Perry says:

    False sentiment stands out by its mediocrity and to read such is a cringe-worthy activity. You’re right though, a writer does not personally have to have experienced the emotions they write about but in writing they have to enter the depths of their characters and live with them, experience their pain, loss, fear to reflect it truthfully. My heart goes out to you, Diana over such horrific and tragic loss of your brother…I read your post about his murder and it has stayed with me ever since. I felt so shocked and devastated I could not comment. In some instances there are no words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Annika for the caring comment. It’s been a long time now since Dan’s death, but it still informs who I am and the grief is always accessible to the writer in me, despite plenty of healing. I’m totally with you on false sentiment or lack of sentiment. It’s the main reason I’ll put down a book. Happy Writing, my friend. ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse says:

    I’m an ‘easy cryer’ myself, but not always an easy writer….so I’ll just say that I can’t find the words to properly tell you how much the world needs more “Peach of a person” people like you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kev says:

    Wow… such a powerful post. And I learn even more about you. I almost did a masters in Christian Counselling… very similar to yours. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Heartafire says:

    i really enjoyed your take on this Diana. A good writer writes from the gut as well as the heart and head.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A lot of people certainly seem to enjoy that. Your writing is beautiful regardless of the scene, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I thought that’s what writing was all about, pouring your heart out onto the page! I know that’s what I do, to help relieve stress from myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post! Hearing that someone has had an emotional reaction to your work is the best compliment a person can receive.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You’re so right, D. Emotions, authenticity…it always works. And it is transparent in everything we write. Every thing. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jennie says:

    This is beautiful! Charlotte’s Web gave you the heart and tools to do what E.B. White did. Your writing is filled with heart. That’s why your stories are good. Thank you for this post, I so enjoyed the read.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lovey says:

    I can perfectly relate, going on a trail of different emotions while reading books or engaging with people in distraught situations. I willingly admit variations in my emotive journey. There’s a thing about pain. It demands to be felt. On a lighter note, I as well can totally astonish people with my display of emotions while reading and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like being an emotional person, Lovey, but as you well know, it can be hard at times when we deeply feel the losses of those around us. It does make journeys into books wonderfully rewarding though! Thanks for comment, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lovey says:

        I have been labelled “too emotional or damaged” for being empathetic and compassionate. I like being emotional too no matter what i am labelled as. It certainly gets difficult to balance vibes at times. I have thankfully learned over time to channelize my emotions in right way. I may run out of options, but running out isn’t an option. Everyone has the ability to hurt. It’s the choice that matters. Your writings are beautiful and soothing to my soul. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Admitted weeper for The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Prince and a few others. It is truly the mark of great writing when a book makes us laugh or cry.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Sabiscuit says:

    I have never read Charlotte’s Web. It takes a strong person to allow themselves to be emotionally overwhelmed while reading a story. I know what the story is about. However, I decided I didn’t want to break down sobbing. That is the only reason I haven’t read it. My tastes in reading material were baked in at an early age: Fact based and impersonal.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Oh wow,the first book I cried reading was “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Then the movie came out and I bawled my eyes out!! I read Charlotte’s Web when I was much older. You are a beautiful, emotional writer, Diana, and it shows. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Beautiful post. Written from the heart and wisdom learned from deep pain. 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I still tear up over the Velveteen Rabbit. I’m really looking forward to reading your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. tric says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your brothers murder. How dreadful.
    I have always felt drawn to the emotion in your writing which makes sense now. You have lived and experienced a wealth of experiences.
    I find some of my most heartfelt, and easiest writing, takes place late at night after a glass of wine. I can tap into emotions that in everyday life I’d not lift the lid of.
    Very interesting post. I’d never fully explored these thoughts before.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Christy B says:

    I remember sobbing over Charlotte’s Web too. Recently, I felt emotional reading the ending of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I wanted a different ending! Yup, I was invested in the read.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I cannot imagine being a grief counselor, Dianne. It would wound me over and over. I think I like cozies because I have trouble not capitulating to the pain and suffering in other stories. You are absolutely right about writing, though–emotion is best when it’s authentic.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Morgan says:

    This is wonderful Diana, and having read Dark Fey you know that I entirely agree with you 🙂 I’ve written scenes that made me blubber more than any Hallmark commercial ever could, but I always say: If I don’t connect with my own writing, no one else with either, right? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. This is very true, Diana. I feel my best work happens when I tap into that pain and fear. If I just make things up, which I also do, it really isn’t my best work. The hallmark of a good writer is transferring some of that empathy to the readers. You are a master of this, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. quotesandmore (Chitra) says:

    even as your words are like a gentle breeze, they are strong and powerful like the storms… they make their mark… loved this post…it does hit home…

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Tears of all origns are no strangers when I am writing either, Diana. Neither is laughter. 😉 I view both as solid signs I’m on the right track!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Meg Sorick says:

    Great post, Diana. Writing with emotion lends such authenticity and weight to your work. And it crosses all genres, too -from humor to horror, the writing should provoke emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I think everything you write carries that same passion. Great insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Oh dear, I’m sniveling just reading about your thoughts on emotional writing. You are so RIGHT on. I’d like to share your thoughts on emotional writing with my creative writing students. Many times in my classes, a student (or two, and then sometimes the entire class of 8 or so students) begin crying from a read-out loud piece. The original crier is embarrassed, but I always explain that THIS IS REAL WRITING – writing out our pain as well as our joy, and showing (not telling) it. It’s fundamental to good writing, and then good reading. Thanks Dianne, as always, you nail it perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great comment, Pam. In my old writing group, if I could get a writing partners to cry, I was delighted. Ha ha. We are a cruel bunch, aren’t we? Please feel free to share. I’m honored. Have a great weekend, my friend.

      Like

  36. Just recently I read a book and didn’t notice that tears were running down my cheeks until my husband looked at me funny. I was so captivated by the story; I didn’t even notice.

    I suppose you have to open your heart to make the reader feel the emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. […] wrote a post back in October called Emotional Writing about a necessary willingness to explore painful feelings. This is tough work: witnessing our own […]

    Like

  38. Lovely, heartfelt piece. Great information.

    Like

  39. lopu123 says:

    Such beautiful, poignant writing! Loved it!

    Like

    • Sometimes I wonder about sharing such personal info, but writing IS personal in many ways. We are putting ourselves out there in our characters and stories. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Like

  40. No wonder your writing is so powerful and engaging!

    Like

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s