Saturday, June 25, 2016

Emotion in Writing by Victoria Chatham

Our topic for June is: How emotionally involved are you in reading or writing some scenes?

This question immediately took me to the scene in the movie Romancing the Stone where romance novelist Joan Wilder (as played by Kathleen Turner), is sobbing her socks off as she finishes her novel because she is so moved by it. Then there’s the ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ scene between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. How about just about any scene in Casablanca but especially ‘of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine’.

I could pull any number of scenes from any number of movies to give as examples, but I’m sure you have your own favorites. In each of these movies, those scenes had to first be written, whether by an author first whose work was adapted for the screen, or by script writers. Each of those writers knew how to pull at heart strings, light heartedly in Romancing the Stone and more dramatically with Gone With the Wind and Casablanca. The depth of feeling in those scenes are enough to stay with any viewer or reader which is the mark of a great writer.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Casablanca, it is set in that town in North Africa during WWII. The leading characters are Rick and Ilsa who have previously had an affair in Paris but Ilsa ran out on him and broke his heart. That she had her reasons does not detract from the depth of emotion when he sees her again. The subtext of  the ‘gin joint’ line, indicagtes that he was getting over her but now she’s back and is breaking his heart all over again. That is the kind of writing that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

I do not see how any writer can NOT get emotionally involved in their writing. If they can’t, then where is the connection or depth in their story? If, as a writer, what you write does not move you, how can you expect it to engage a reader? And isn’t this what we want? To engage our readers? Now that seems like an awful lot of questions but in answering them and studying how to build intrigue, subtext and emotion into your writing will leave readers wanting more.

Take a look at what these fine authors have to say on the subject:

Skye Taylor
Anne Stenhouse
Marci Baun
Heather Haven
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Rachael Kosinski
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Rhobin Courtright


  1. I think to read fiction we have to become the character, and even if the author is not overly emotive, we intrinsically know how we would feel in the character's situation. It's like the author and reader communicate on a mental level. Great examples! Love them all.

    1. Becoming the character was interesting for my sword fight scenes in His Ocean Vixen. Thank goodness for the local fencing club who put a sword in my hand and proceeded to show me how much I didn't know!

  2. I had forgotten how political Casablanca was, and joe well it has weathered the passage of time. The perfect example of emotion is a scene

    1. It was a great movie. Reminds me of a friend who wanted to know why I liked 'old black and white movies'. I had him watch it with me and explained what made it so good as we went along. At the end he said, if you weren't so old I'd never have watched that. Guess seniors are good for something.

  3. Great examples of scenes that grab and stay with you. I agree with all of those and admit to many others. They are the scenes that stick with you forever because the author drew you so firmly into the head and heart of the POV character.

  4. Yep. One of the scenes that still haunts me is from an early M&B called Don't Play Games by Emma Darcy. It's about a woman who has married a B***d, but made her vows and will stick with them. Great scene between her and the man who eventually rescues her. One can only keep on tryng and hope to hit the spot in one's own work. anne stenhouse

    1. One can only keep on trying - well said, Anne! That's all we can do.