Writing by Heart

by | Uncategorized | 7 comments

Credit: Michael Pohl

**I’m blogging at WordServe Water Cooler today. Stop by and see what I have to say about Learning to Let Go.

There’s nothing to writing.  

All you do is sit down at a typewriter
and open a vein.  
~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

Last Wednesday morning after I hit snooze about three times, I came awake with a revelation—I have become my character.

When I began my current work-in-progress (WIP), my character struggled with financial hardships. About that time, my husband lost his job.

My character discovered a maintenance issue in her place of business. We had a major leak in our bedroom. Then we found another one in our back entry area.

When my character needed hope, God provided me with a book contract.

I’m editing the Black Moment where the character’s daughter is rushed to the ER. Three weeks ago my mother was taken to the ER by ambulance. Last week she was admitted to the hospital again for more testing for her heart. Next Friday, she will have a triple bypass.

The waiting, the worrying that Josie is feeling—I get that.

Writing is about creating relationships with your readers, allowing them to feel the same character emotions as they turn the pages.

In order to create those emotions, you have to sacrifice a part of yourself—become vulnerable on the page.

Before you write a scene, think about the emotion you want the character to feel, then think back to a time when you had a similar experience or emotion. Now bleed how you felt onto the page.

Tuesday night when I visited my mom in the hospital, I smiled and laughed because I didn’t want to stress her out by the worry bouncing around inside my head. When I came home, I channeled those emotions into my scene and wrote this:

Birthdays were supposed to be celebrations, not spent fighting to breathe in a hospital room painted the color of chicken soup.

Children’s laughter should be bouncing off the walls instead of beeping monitors and hissing tubes. The scent of sulphur from extinguished birthday candles and the sweetness of frosting should be lingering in the air. Not the stench of antiseptic that had become as familiar as Josie’s own shampoo.

Her gaze fixated on Hannah’s closed eyes, memorizing every curve and line of her face. Her chest rose and fell in a peaceful rhythm. Too peaceful. Too final.

Please, God, one more birthday . . .  

She’d pray that prayer every day for the rest of her life if necessary.

Losing her only child would surely shred her heart beyond repair. Hannah was a piece of her. A small representation of the good in Josie’s life. She’d lost so many people already. Couldn’t He spare her daughter?

She swiped at the tears crowding her eyes, swallowing back the boulder-sized lump that seemed to be a constant part of her anatomy. Hope appeared to be the large tanker in the middle of the ocean and she resided on the island of despair with rescue being a stranger.

When Nick walked away, he took another piece of her heart with him. Would he return? The voice inside her head screamed for him to stay. She couldn’t bear to be alone anymore, to lose someone else she loved. Instead, she told him not to bother coming back.

Your turn: How do you write emotion? Do you find it a challenge? What suggestions do you have to offer?

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  1. Jessica R. Patch

    That's a fabulous scene and it makes me want to read more! Love the walls look like chicken soup.

    Bleeding our emotions on the page, good stuff. 🙂

    I've noticed when I'm putting a character through something, things come up in my life that are eerily similar.

  2. Keli Gwyn

    Lisa, like you I attempt to infuse my stories with emotions such as those I've experienced. One of the most moving scenes I wrote happened when I got off the phone after learning that my grandmother had died. I was home alone. Well, the cats were here, but they were no help at all. I took all that emotion and poured it into the sad scene I'd been writing, and did it ever take the scene to a new level.

  3. Reba J. Hoffman

    Holy Cow, Lisa. You HAVE become your character. So in book two, will your heroine be young, beautiful, rich and a multi-New York best selling author? 🙂

  4. Jessica Nelson

    Oooh, good question. I don't know if I bring out emotion in my stories. Sometimes I think I overdue the emotion which takes away from the reader feeling it, if that makes sense?
    Great scene and great job of tying together the outer stuff with the inner! I hope things work out for you and like your character, you get your HEA. 🙂

  5. Sandra Orchard

    Great scene, Lisa. So sorry to hear your mom is ailing. One quote I have posted on my writing desk is "make your readers cry so your heroine doesn't have to." By digging deep into the character's emotion with such appropriate metaphors, you've done a superb job of wrenching our hearts out.

  6. Sandra Orchard

    Hi Lisa,

    I just wanted to let you know that I named you a Liebster Blog Award winner on my blog today (Saturday 20th).

  7. Terri Tiffany

    Oh wow! You wrote that fabulous! I always write where I am in life and become my characters. Sadly,I was depressed for so long about our unemployment etc that is shows too much in my previous work.
    You are a great writer!
    Praying your mom is doing ok!