5 Ways to Reveal Your Character’s Emotions

Character’s Emotions Affect Reader’s Emotions

Be A NovelistThe emotion of a reader toward your character (or characters) is not built all at once. It is built slowly and steadily throughout the course of the novel. Through one incident after another you’ll continue to remind your reader of the character’s personality traits. You’ll weave in suitable character traits – either admirable or despicable – in order to rouse and involve the emotions of your reader.

Your job is to use every opportunity to characterize your main character. At least five methods (perhaps more) are at your disposal to reveal your character’s emotions. In doing so, you will in turn connect your reader with your character. While you, as the author, do the disappearing act!  (More about how you, as the author, must disappear.)

1. Telling

You can tell the reader what emotions the character is experiencing at any given moment in the novel. This will be the least effective of the five. Telling about emotions is often used in the short story where word count is limited; however, in a novel, it’s somewhat of a copout.

Carmen’s shock at being laid off after the downsizing was so great she despaired even of life.

2. Inner Thoughts

You can go into the thoughts of your character to expose the emotions. We go inside the character’s head and eavesdrop on her inner thoughts.

I gave them my all – my life – and this is the thanks I get? Carmen gripped the steering wheel as she darted erratically through the busy traffic. What would it matter if I took their stupid company car over the side of the bridge? They’d miss their stupid old car more than they’d miss me.

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3. Dialogue

Emotions can also be revealed through spoken dialogue of character. However, realize that Carmen will be much more restrained in her speech than in her free-tumbling thoughts.

Carmen blinked back tears as she held the cell phone to her ear and steered the car erratically through busy traffic. “Just like that, Sadie.” She gunned the company car through a yellow light. “Just like that I get the pink slip – as though I hadn’t poured my life into this job every day for the past fifteen years.” She scrunched up her shoulder to hold the phone in place as she whipped around a sharp corner. “Aw but who cares, right? Who really cares about anything? Ever.”

4. Minor Character

Another technique is to bring in a minor character to express the emotions of the character.

Sadie pushed Carmen gently down onto the couch. “Hey girlfriend, I know this is a blow, but I’ve been watching you. Watched you claw your way to the top. You’ve worked like you were driven by demons – more the last year than ever.” Sadie sat down beside her friend. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you can’t make it without this job. It’s written all over your face.”

5.  Character’s Actions

The fifth and final technique to reveal the emotions of the character is through the character’s own actions. This can be a tough one. When done artfully, it is by far the most effective. The reason is because you show the reader what happens and then allow reader to draw her own conclusions. You, as the author, furnish the material for the effect, the reader then creates the effect in her own mind and imagination. This means the reader is fully engaged.

The moment Carmen stepped into her office, she knew something was wrong. She’d been sensing it for several days. She glanced around the opulent office that she remembered yearning to occupy years ago when she was a mere junior executive.

Stepping around her desk she saw the form letter lying there. Yes, there’d been a downsizing, but she never dreamt it would affect her. They needed her – didn’t they? She was indispensable, wasn’t she?

She knew immediately what the letter was; she’d seen many of them. She’d even handed out a few.

Picking up the letter she balled it up in her clenched fist. In one sweep of her free Be A Novelisthand, she sent the heavy brass name plate with V.P. after her name crashing into the metal waste can.

Grabbing her purse she stomped out slamming the office door behind her, half hoping the glass in it would shatter. She headed to the elevator and took it down to the parking garage. The company car hadn’t been taken from her yet. She jumped in, rammed the key in the ignition, started it, and revved backward out of her coveted parking space. She laid rubber as she peeled out of the dark cavern.

More Work; More Words

Now I don’t mean these examples to be works of art. This is coming off the top of my head to make a point. As you can see, the fifth and last technique requires more work, and more words. However, it grabs up the reader and won’t let her go. And that’s exactly what you’re looking for. (Were you hoping Carmen would throw her brass name plate through the window? Ah that’s what we want! Smile)

Emotions! Emotions of the reader; emotions of the character. And of course your emotions behind the scenes orchestrating the entire drama!  What fun!

(More about Feelings and Emotions in this blog!)

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