Tears on my pillow
"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe." Winston Churchill
What makes a story come alive for me is the emotions that spring from the page, that make the characters real. I want to believe that the person in the book is really feeling the emotion so that I can relate to them. I know when a story is good when it makes me cry, even if it's not trying to. It means the author has hooked me and I will go with them wherever their story takes them.
There are a few questions I'd like to ask you about your own tears.
1) When was the last time you cried?
2) Why did you cry?
3) Where were you when you cried?
4) Who was with you when you cried?
5) How did you cry?
6) What did you do when you've finished crying?
Real life can make you cry and so can fantasy. Did you watch a movie you've seen many times before, knowing it will make you cry? I cry at movies and the first movie I remember crying over was "Imitation of Life" (1959). I was watching it on a portable black and white television in the spare room and my dad came in and found me crying. He asked what I was crying about and I could only point to the TV. He didn't understand the emotional connection I felt. I cried at "Anne of Green Gables" (1985) and its sequels. I cried at the final episode of "Lost" (2004-2010). After investing 6 years of watching, I was there in that chapel when the realisation came to them all.
Have you had an argument where you cried either from frustration - he's just not getting what I'm saying - or because you were upset - he didn't mean that, did he? Have you cried for joy or cried with laughter? Have you sobbed uncontrollably? Have you swallowed your tears because it's neither the time nor the place? Have your tears taken you completely by surprise?
I'm asking a lot of questions because to make tears in a story believable, they have to be as real as they can be. When you've had an argument with your man, you're frustrated. You take some deep breaths to calm down, but it catches in your throat. The muscles in your neck tighten and on the inside, your throat feels sore. Your jaw is taught, you bite the inside of your lip. You are angry at the tears that are filling your eyes. You make sure you don't blink for fear of a tear falling. You don't want him to see you are hurt, that you care so much about what he thinks. You turn away as he leaves, your shoulders held high and as the door slams, you swallow that lump in your throat, blink and let go the breath you've been holding. The tear rolls from your lashes.
Does your heroine have a genuine reason to cry? Does the scene give just cause for her need to cry? Is this emotion going to move the story along? Do we learn more about her on a personal level, her history, her current situation? You need to think about the words you use. Does she fight it or does she just give in? Is she crying for real or is she crying for effect? What does the hero have to do with her tears or what does he do about them?
Think again about what does make you cry. Music? A particular song? What part of your life did the song mean something to you? Is it to do with a person? What did that person mean to you? Was it the song or was it the music video? Was the song from a film soundtrack? Memories? An event, a person, an anniversary?
Answer the six questions above to get a realistic idea of your own tears and then apply that to your heroine. You, of course, have artistic license and you will know your character and will know how best to stage her tears, but as Winston Churchill said, "to convince them, you must yourself believe."
Join me soon for more Emotion 101.
Take care, Txx