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Living Loz
You can't just state your emotions, that makes me feel angry! 
17th-Sep-2012 05:01 pm
Loz Cola
Ugh, guys, I'm finding it very hard to get into characters' headspaces lately. Not in terms of understanding why they do what they do, but conveying that to an audience? It always feels so forced and clunky. I've struggled with this aspect of writing forever, but ever since The Closet and Dr Caligari I've found it even worse; almost impossible. How do you do it? How've you seen other writers do it? How do you make things clear enough that people aren't all "your characters have no emotion" but aren't just writing things like "He hadn't listened and that made Gus sad" (which isn't an actual example, but terrifyingly close to it, bleugh.)
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17th-Sep-2012 11:56 am (UTC)
See, that's what I used to do. I've always been a more 'show rather than tell' writer, but then, sometimes I feel like I haven't shown enough? I used to get "your fics don't evoke much emotion" comments sometimes, way back when, so that's been something I've been consciously working on. But now I think I am too conscious of it.

I think my main problem with that fic in particular was that I had Gus so far in denial and yet I was trying to tell the story from him, and... that aspect just didn't really work. There were so many clunky thought processes, ugh. I really think I tried to explain too much about what was going through Gus' head? And to be honest, the answer was 'not much at all'. I pushed through anyway, because everything else in the story was what I wanted. But it's made me second-guess myself on everything. I kind of don't trust myself with anything other than dialogue at the moment.

And now I am writing another character who is in denial (Derek in Teen Wolf), and how do you write from the perspective of characters in denial, how do you dooo iiiiiiit? How do you write from someone who's oblivious in all these ridiculous ways? How is it obvious they're changing their opinion? How do you write?

Edited at 2012-09-17 11:58 am (UTC)
17th-Sep-2012 12:18 pm (UTC)

For characters in denial I like to illuminate it by showing how they're lying to themselves with how their actions contradict it.

Like the old 10cc song, I'm not in love:

17th-Sep-2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
This is one of my favourite songs. :D Meep?

This is good advice, thank you.

(Mostly, I find myself thinking "you used to do this, Loz. All the time. Maybe you should've just stuck with what you knew?") Because it's likely a style thing. More distant show rather than tell is my metier, and whatever the hell it is I attempted with the Psych fic is not.
17th-Sep-2012 12:30 pm (UTC)

It's a great song. One of my American friends says it's a really English song due to the understatement of it. *g*

I know very little about Teen Wolf but Derek is a werewolf, right? Fandom osmosis, it's a thing. Well, for instance, I could see him protecting Stiles(? or is it Scott?) in a way where your reader would understand why but Derek would be justifying it in his head in a different way.

I think it never hurts to stretch and try a few new things but yeah, your style is your style. It's like I'm not drawn to highly emo characters and don't think I ever would be because it's just not how I process the world.

17th-Sep-2012 12:38 pm (UTC)
Derek is indeed a werewolf. And, yes, Stiles. Hahaha. I love that you know this just because of fannish osmosis. It's like how I know ridiculous amounts about Supernatural even though I've only seen three episodes and am not a fan.

See, the whole protecting thing is totally canon. And is what I did in my successful long Teen Wolf fic (which, for the most part, I did not second guess myself over at all.) But with this fic, it's kind of... monsterless. But I can apply the tenet in other ways, for sure.
17th-Sep-2012 12:58 pm (UTC)

Yes, I know ridiculous amounts about SPN too... and The Sentinel... and Starsky & Hutch... this could turn in to a very long list. *g*

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17th-Sep-2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I wonder if there are any good books centre around that kind of denial and obliviousness? My problem is that I'm always more of a viewer than a reader and always want to apply tv and film techniques to my own fic. (I tend to mostly read murder mysteries/thrillers and comedy by professional writers --- not sure how helpful they would be.)

The story I'm working on at the moment bounces POV (but not in an omniscient way), so that is a distinct possibility. So are you saying you tend to shy away from writing down what they're thinking? Because that is my natural inclination. Or, at least, I want him thinking about everything other than what's really going on.

Thank you ♥ I really just need to get stuck into writing, after this week is over. And maybe just not worry so much. It's a fusion with Sabrina after all, I don't know why I'm taking it so seriously. Because I made the mistake of rereading The Closet and Dr Caligari and was all 'WRONG, LOZ. UGH, THIS IS JUVENILE. GUS IS NOT THIS STUPID. WHY DID YOU DO IT THIS WAY? LEARN HOW TO CHARACTERISE'.
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17th-Sep-2012 12:40 pm (UTC)
Well, see, this was said about three to four years ago, so. :D It's possible I actually fixed that problem ages ago, but now I'm trying to overcorrect? That's actually probably what's going on.
19th-Sep-2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that's what's going on.
17th-Sep-2012 12:14 pm (UTC)

I like to show the contradiction between what they're thinking and what they're saying. Adults very rarely say what's on their mind but rather what they think they should be saying... of course you're currently writing about teenagers so... forget I said anything. *g*

17th-Sep-2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Derek's an adult! An emotionally stunted, in some ways extraordinarily immature adult. But out of his teens, at least.

Hmm. Contradiction. Yeah, that's really what I need. A whole mess of it.
17th-Sep-2012 12:32 pm (UTC)

Yeah, but it sounds like he's only technically out of his teens so back to confusion and probable blurting of contradictory emotions.

17th-Sep-2012 12:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, Derek.

And, yeah.
17th-Sep-2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I tend to combine a lot of gestures (I'm kind of a squirmy and fidgety person, and tend to write characters that way - I love writing smokers because of what they're doing with their hands), and a lot of internal monologue. And in terms of internal monologue, people almost never think "I'm sad because he's not listening." Instead they start grumbling or worrying or getting self-deprecating or resentful something else that makes it clear that they're bothered.
19th-Sep-2012 09:01 am (UTC)
It's the internal monologue part I am really struggling with. Always have done, but these days it seems to be especially difficult.
19th-Sep-2012 11:21 am (UTC)
Really? I hadn't realized it was a struggle for you.

Do you talk to yourself in your head? Have you tried doing an in-character version of that? Like "I'm Sam Tyler, and I'm thinking..." and going from there? Doing stuff like that for practice (and not necessarily writing it down) might help?
19th-Sep-2012 11:40 am (UTC)
I talk to myself in my head all the time. It's usually disjointed and full of, like, fantasy scenes of me being an awesome singer/writer/hugely popular fan. I'm still 12.

But, importantly, I also do tend to label my emotions. "Oh, Loz, you're feeling sad because [x]."

Meh. :D
19th-Sep-2012 11:53 am (UTC)
Okay, that first bit sounds fairly typical, and the second bit is definitely not how I think, but could work for some characters. You're not the only person I've heard from who does that. (For me, emotions seem to hit primarily as physical sensations, and labeling just makes things feel worse - good stuff feels less fun, and bad stuff feels more depressing - so the emotional part of my internal monologue is much more about how it effects how I feel physically, my impressions of what's going on around me, and what I expect or anticipate.)

I think you're not as bad as you think you are, and the "Ugh, I'm awful!" reaction can actually interfere with attempts to improve, because it makes it harder to see when you are doing it right.

Are there any writers you like who handle this kind of thing effectively?
19th-Sep-2012 02:20 pm (UTC)
Good question, but they do it so seamlessly I can't usually pick apart their techniques, and as said, when I feel like I try to do it, it feels contrived and out of balance. Not always, admittedly, but sometimes.
19th-Sep-2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
I hate it when I can't figure out the technique! A while ago, someone told me my male narrator didn't read as convincingly male, and recommended James Tiptree Jr. as a writer who was good at producing a convincing male voice, and so I went and read a bunch of Tiptree and ended up more confused, because everything of hers left me going "People seriously didn't guess this stuff was written by a woman?"

It's hard to fix this kind of writing problem Usually, what works best for me in trying to get a character's interior monologue is to alternately watch/read the original and let the character yammer away in my head until it feels right.

Maybe this is one of those things where you let yourself get so self-conscious about this particular point you've psyched yourself out?
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