Monday, August 13, 2012

Emoting Emotion

How do you get a character to show dimension when that character's culture and characteristic build is the lack of emotion?

No, no, I'm not going Vulcan on you all.

In my newest manuscript (started just a couple weeks ago) my main female character comes from a world where the people don't have the expressive facial, verbal tone modulation and body cues that normal humans do. So, the emotions are all on the inside but they don't come through and express themselves to the other characters.

I can't believe I did this to myself, people. I really can't.

Okay, truthfully I didn't get to choose her. She came popping up from my Muse (aka Subconscious). This is her story and there's no way around it. But I'm finding it a challenge to get her right. I mean, a character doesn't "tell" their feelings to others, it is shown usually through their body language and facial cues.

That route has been stripped from me. Thankfully this isn't a romance, but it's a woman's fictional story so I want her to exhibit some of those trials and tribulations that woman face and have faced throughout time.

When I'm in her POV it kind of works, because she's responding to the situation, but when I'm in the other main character's POV it's nearly impossible.

I think I'm going to pull from the corporate world a bit. What do I mean by this? Well, it is common for females in the corporate world to hide and suppress their emotional responses, or otherwise be seen as a fluff woman. This leads to them not being taken seriously and they lose credibility.

It's not exactly like it, but it's a start. I guess.

I might also research those cases of traumatic injury where people cannot express their emotions, but often it's because the emotion button is switched off, so I'm not sure how helpful it'll be.

Wish me luck folks!

What writing struggles are you all facing right now? Anything I can help with?


  1. Interesting. I just finished a book and I absolutely could not get the heroine to open up to me. I did character sketches,background, love gone bad, etc. She refused. I battled with this until half-way through the book. I'm the writer. I won.

    1. Isn't that the way is ends up sometimes?

      LOL, writer's core tools: writing mode, imagination, and a bullwhip.

  2. Good luck - that is hard. Sometimes it's hard when they do have emotions!! I would offer a tip told me me a long time ago - treat your character like a poker player - every one has a "tell" eye movement, tap of finger, pushing hair behind an ear. Maybe that will help a bit. Good luck!

    1. So true Linda! I like the poker player angle...definitely will research that and see what I can apply! Thanks!

  3. Could you reveal emotion through the eyes (windows to the soul) or something more subtle? Or is this a work that might lend itself to being redone in first person? I recently read a book in which the the odd chapters were told by the heroine in 1st person POV and the even chapters by the hero in 1st person POV. When it's done right, that kind of perspective can work really well.

    1. I like the eye emotion technique. Just have to figure it out so it doesn't get overplayed.

      Unfortunately I don't know if 1st person thing will work. I'm not very good at that POV. Also, it's the second book in a contracted series. The publisher will probably want to keep consistent in the POV approach.

  4. You definitely took on a challenge there! :) I liked the idea of the eye movement, too. Even if they don't show emotions in the same way, could emotions be detected through things like body heat or maybe a subtle discoloration of the palms... something entirely different than facial expressions?

    Whatever you end up doing, I'm sure it'll be great. :)

  5. Don't you love it when a character shows up and throws you a massive curveball? I don't envy you this challenge, but best wishes working through it!