Creating Character Emotions / Edition 1by Ann Hood
Pub. Date: 02/28/1998
Publisher: F+W Media
In this unique book, Ann Hood will help you find fresh, creative images, words and gestures to evoke feelings in your fiction. In 36 "mini-lessons," Hood sheds new light on love, hate, fear, grief, guilt, hope, jealousy and other major emotions. Each lesson offers instruction on rendering that particular sentiment; "good" and "bad" examples illustrating how writers
In this unique book, Ann Hood will help you find fresh, creative images, words and gestures to evoke feelings in your fiction. In 36 "mini-lessons," Hood sheds new light on love, hate, fear, grief, guilt, hope, jealousy and other major emotions. Each lesson offers instruction on rendering that particular sentiment; "good" and "bad" examples illustrating how writers have succeeded and where others have gone wrong; and imaginative exercises for putting the feeling into words.
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While I was reading this book, I thought it was okay, not great. But when I realized how my writing had improved as a result of Hood's insight, that opinion changed. You won't get very much from this book if you skim it. The wisdom isn't in the examples - it's in the mindset. And you develop the mindset by reading and immersing yourself in Hood's ideas: Every expression of emotion is a window into the character. So don't waste the opportunity by saying something trite, like 'his blood boiled,' that could apply to anyone. Make the expression unique to the character and unique to your voice as an author. This book shames you into avoiding clichés and shows by example how to do it better.
Ann Hood has done a great job with this guide. After reading it, novice writers will get a better idea of how to express the emotions of their characters. However, to find out if your writing has improved, you will need to have other advanced writers read your work. I highly recommend this book to all writers who have constantly found themselves in the cliche trap.
The advantage of this book is its narrow scope. Because it confines itself to character emotions, it can go into more detail than the usual omnibus book. This is also its weakness. She begins with a 15 page essay on writing about emotions. How to do it wrong: clichés, lack of specificity, ambiguity (which she, unaccountably, equates with labeling), ¿not trusting your characters¿ (meaning, lack of consistency or ¿too consistent¿). How to do it right gets a little vague, but fresh language, the power of suggestion, dialogue, interior monologue, showing an emotion by ¿indirect¿ behavior (i.e. displacement) are the right ways. She then has a chapter on 36 different emotions: anger, fear, grief, guilt, etc, but including worry, resignation, surprise, sympathy. Each chapter is about 4 pages long¿much too short to be very useful. The bad examples given first are obvious, but they need to be. And many beginning writers make these mistakes, so they need to be shown. The good examples are useful, but sometimes debatable, illustrating that conveying character emotions is a nontrivial task. The exercises are reasonable, but how will a writer know when she is doing it well? Still, this book should make every writer think before charging ahead and merely assuming that because the writer feels it, the reader also is going to feel it. Think again!