Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Writers' Wednesday - Writing Emotion

Today Fiona Harper talks about resisting the urge to make every scene as emotional as possible. Heresy, you say, aren't romances supposed to be emotional? Well...Fiona thinks too much of a good thing can spoil the emotion in your book.

It's very tempting when you want to write an emotional scene, or even an emotional book, to throw everything you have at it. We're always told that including sensual information adds depth to our writing, and it does, but it's not always a good idea to go to town with it on every page!

Too much too soon.

Marjorie spun around as she heard a sharp click, and her breath caught in her throat. Was it that time already? Her heart began to pump. Slowly, carefully, treading through the balls of her feet, she walked across the kitchen. She could feel damp heat on her face, almost taste what was coming. Suddenly, her head swam. This was it. The kettle had finally boiled. It was time to make her cup of tea.

Okay, so I'm being a little over-dramatic in the passage above, but I wanted to make a point. If, right from the word go, you overload your story with rich, sensual data, it becomes a little melodramatic. Sure, you want to include sensual images, but choose carefully and use them sparingly if this isn't an emotional high point in the story. Don't overload your brush.

Less is more.

This can even happen when the heroine meets the hero in the early chapters of the book. Yes, we want readers to know that he affects the heroine, and that she's attracted to him, but if you have her swooning into a puddle at his feet every time he's within ten feet of her, it can get a bit too much. Readers eventually either a) get fed up with your swooning heroine or b) become so accustomed to the rich emotional language that it loses it's impact. By the time they reach the important emotional scenes they've been numbed by all the emotion flung at them and that scene will have lost its emotional punch.

Also, if you've already made things as intense and emotional as they can get, you've left yourself nowhere to go when things really heat up between your hero and heroine. Little touches, that's all that's necessary. Save the big guns for the emotional high points - those key moments in the story when passions and feelings really are running high.

Think about action movies... I love a good action flick, but if there is an unrelenting chain of car chases, shoot outs and explosions, I find I just switch off. You can have too much of a good thing. The skill in writing emotion is to know when and where to go for the jugular.

Fiona's next book, Housekeeper's Happily-Ever-After is out in March in the UK (as a 2-in-1 with Jessica Hart's new release, Oh-So-Sensible Secretary) and available in North America in April.

Ellie Bond tries to escape her past by taking a job as jet-setting Mark Wilder's housekeeper. But the accident that killed her husband and daughter have left scars, both inside and out, and she worries she'll never be able to leave the past behind and find true happiness.


  1. LOL on the dramatic teamaking scene - you had me going there for a mo! But I get what you are saying - it *is* so easy to over do it - purple prose and all that. Caroline x

  2. Clearly Marjorie feels the same as I do about tea. LOL.

    Great advice there. If the writer keeps the emotional intensity dialled all the way up to 11 the whole time, well there's nowhere left to go for the *big* scenes, is there? They won't stand out the way they should.

  3. Wise advice Fiona, I have a terrible tendency to over do things right off the bat and then have to slash and burn at the revision stage!