Emotional content

A few personal things lately have turned my thoughts to using emotion in your writing. Emotion is strong. I’ve said many times that love is the most powerful thing in the world, with greed running neck and neck with hate. While I don’t necessarily condone writing out hate since it can get you into serious trouble, there is an outlet for blowing off steam with the written word. If you are mad, write a scene where the players are royally ticked off. If you are sad, use the words as a catharsis and write it out. I’ve done that, more than once. If you’re happy-happy-happy, then write that too.

However, there is a limit. If you write something that has waaaaay too much pain, then your reader could desert you – and your story won’t be told. Or hate. I can think of several things off the top of my head that is nothing but hatred and no story. Those are terrible. Love? Well, love is wonderful and it can make you feel great – and if you transfer that feeling to your story and by extension your reader, then you might have something they will come back for again and again.

Be realistic. In real life, people do get married within days of meeting and have long, happy, fulfilling marriages, but this is not the norm. Nowadays, a single person has to be careful. By this same token, a fictional romance shouldn’t be immortalized within the bounds of a few pages. It should be stretched out. On the other side of that same token, something hateful should be long. In fact, look at Game of Thrones. The Lannisters have lasted how many pages?

When you sit down at the keyboard, or your writing pad, you have your state of mind to either help or hinder you. Use it. If you’re blocked, then get up from the computer or whatever and take a break. Sometimes, I just close what I’m working on and write about something else.

Of course, sometimes, it isn’t wise to write when you’re at an extreme of emotion. Just like with the spoken word, written words can be regretted. Text messages come to mind.

For the most part however, you can harness your emotional state and produce powerful work. Writing, music, painting, sculpture, whatever. I’ve done this. I wrote a piece that was almost 7,000 words in four hours. I can tell you that after that burst of energy was expended, I was simply exhausted.

Fear, love, heartache, hate, joy, longing, desperation, happiness – these are only a few of the range of human emotion that can propel a creative work. If you can tap into these and write truthfully, then you will write with a rawness and power that cannot be denied.

For instance, Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald wrote a piece after 9/11. He had a piece ready to submit to his editor, but when he heard about what had happened he sat down and wrote out a piece called, We’ll go forward from this moment, and it was pretty raw the day after.

So write out what you feel. You might be surprised.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

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