Don’t Avoid the Emotion

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I’m near the end of this draft of my novel and I’m reluctant to face the last few chapters. Why? Too much emotion!

You must write the emotional ending

It’s not fair to the reader to have his/her turn the page and read. “I woke up the next morning and thought about what happened last night.”

You can’t give the emotional climax of the story slantwise. The reader deserves better. Instead, you must face the emotional turmoil and write it head-on.

But I don’t want to go through those emotions! I’ve backed my characters into a corner and there’s no way out. AF is sitting on the floor of a grocery store eating peanut butter from a jar, waiting for a social worker to come and take her to a new foster home. EW is hanging onto the back of a shopping cart staring at AF and wondering how long before he is emotionally in her shoes. Whoa! I don’t want to be either of them right now.

How to approach these hard scenes?

  • Focus on details. Usually, I try to put something in a character’s hand. Like a peanut butter jar and a spoon. I let those details come forward, so the emotional content is there in the background, but it’s bearable. If the detail can in any way be symbolic, that’s even better.
  • Write a skeleton. Sometimes, I might write a bare bones skeleton, then go back and fill in details on the next revision. In other words, I only taste the emotion, set it up, write the structure around it. I create the container for the emotion, knowing that I’m not finished until I’ve filled it up with emotion, but also knowing that it’s enough for now. Because I know I’m going to revise, I’m not afraid to under-write on the first draft.
  • Avoid — not! Sometimes, I avoid the scene. Yes, I do. Don’t you? I surf the web; I answer email; I take a walk; I call a friend; I critique a mss; I read a book. But in the end, you must sit yourself down and write the scene. That’s what I plan to do today. No more avoidance! Ask me later if I got it done!

What about you? How do you face those emotional scenes near the end of your story?

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2 Comments
  • Cheryl R.
    January 20, 2009

    I love your suggestion to put something in the character’s hand. It’s simple but powerful–I’m definitely going to give it a try! And yes, I do tend to avoid writing those scenes. What do you think I’m doing right now? *grin*

  • Darcy Pattison
    January 20, 2009

    Yeah. And I’m avoiding MY scenes by reading your comment! How bad is that!
    Darcy