Emotion: How Would Your Character React?

One of the key things that we as writers need to be able to do is get into the mindsets of other people. This is how we can create our characters and their experiences, from the experiences of the lonely character in a short poem to the experiences of a fantasy warrior in a novel. When we think of how our character reacts to situations, these need to be realistic reactions that reflect their background and knowledge. One way that we can do this is by tapping into our character’s emotions.

The theme for this month is emotions. We have thus far considered the importance of emotions, by thinking about how we can identify the important emotional parts of our writing, how we can show emotions instead of telling them, and how we can use the scene to boost emotions. Today, we’re going to think about how we can apply emotions to our characters.

The most important thing to remember here is that your character is not you. Just because you would react in a particular way to an event does not mean that your character would react in the same way. Think about it like this: when some people find out that their partners have cheated on them, they can forgive them (for various reasons); others will call off the relationship (again, for their own reasons). Neither person is necessarily stronger than the other. If your character is in that situation, then you need to figure out how they would react to it and not how you think they should react.

A good way to establish how your character might be likely to react is to look at their history. For instance, if the character’s parents betrayed one another when they were a child but somehow managed to make their relationship work afterwards, then the character may be more likely to try to make their own relationship work following a betrayal, too. On the other hand, if they have moved from friend to friend throughout their life without looking back and have become used to packing their bags and moving on with their life, then they may find it easier to leave.

You can also establish the personality traits of their character that may affect their emotional reaction (remember, how they react on the outside may not be how they feel on the inside). A character who wants to look strong may leave their partner even if it breaks their heart. A character who is aggressive may approach their love rival and attempt to “get rid” of them. A character who is family focused may stay with their partner even if they know they are being cheated on.

The emotional reaction of your character to a given situation needs to feel genuine to the reader. You can practice getting into the emotional mindset of your character by putting them in different situations and using their background, life, cultural history, personality, and other traits to establish how they are likely to react. It’s not always easy to let your character lead the way – but it results in a smoother, more natural reaction.

This month’s theme is EMOTION. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of emotions, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Emotion.

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