As 50 Shades of Grey is about to be released, PHS editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles explains about emotional shading and how it can help your writing really connect to readers.
Packing an emotional punch and delivering on the emotional promise are two of the hardest things for an author to do. About 90% of your readers will only get 10% of what you as the author are feeling. And then there is the problem is that you often need to dig deeper. But you don’t always want to be hitting the same note and you don’t want for your emotions to be superficial. In other words, sometimes you want to be whispering instead of punching.
I find it can be useful to think emotion like a bead on a string. For example there are different shades of blue beads from the palest blue, nearly white to the deepest shade of indigo. There is an overall emotion like joy but there are many words that mean joy. Being glad is different from being radiant. From ecstatic to content. From laughing to giving a tiny smile. What sort of joy does your character to feel and can you show this motion intensifying or do you want to keep it pale because another deeper and more intense emotion is about to happen.
A string of beads which are all the same shade looks boring. It is when you contrast that string against another colour. With darkness you need light. And shadow brings the light into relief. So if you are writing and amusing story, do consider adding a contrast ing emotion every now and then to make the lightness stand out more.
However the scenario: one minute the character is happy and in love, the next she is having a blazing row and her life is over right before she is happy again can fuse the reader. But if the emotions are of a different intensity, the reader can better understand what is going on. For example, the sadness you might feel when your beloved pet dies is not the same as the moment of sadness you feel when you have reached the last chocolate in the box and you know there are no more.
When you vary the intensity of the emotion, the character becomes alive. People are not angry all the time – sometimes they are upset, sometimes they are furious, sometimes they are an erupting volcano where everyone has to run and take cover from.
Making sure you delineate the difference and have the appropriate intensity can really help a reader connect with the characters. So think contrast and shading for the emotional life of your characters.
If you want to know more and in greater depth, I would recommend reading Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Inglesias. It is aimed at scriptwriting but there is much a novelist can learn about how to get those emotions on the page. Or even how to refine your technique.
So when you are next writing, don’t just think emotional punch but also think 50 shades of emotion.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. Her latest TAMING HIS VIKING WOMAN is out now. You can learn more at her website www.michellestyles.co.uk