I'm not an angsty person. In high school, I didn't pine over a crush who didn't return my admiration, I didn't wail that I didn't get invited to the cool kids' parties, and I didn't sob when I didn't go to my prom. I don't do emotional slobber.
Maybe it's my industrious, stern German background. We didn't have all that much drama in our family; we tended to keep it to ourselves or behind closed doors. And it goes without saying that I don't like woeful, angsty books. Weepy females tick me off.
So when my agent says I need more emotion in a scene, I know she's right. I don't even argue, I revisit the scene and figure out where my cold-hearted writing needs to be humanized. Sometimes that's hard to do. This difficulty with emotion is a blessing when I'm asked to write a eulogy. I can write passionately about a passed loved one and smile through the recitation while everyone else cries deathinconsolably.
To make my scenes more heartfelt, I have to draw on personal experience, allow those repressed feelings to bubble up, and channel them into my writing. Recently, I lost my beloved Aunt Kay, my mother's sister who was in many ways, a second mother to me. With her sickness, hospitalization and then death, I was with the family, helping to support my cousins and uncle. For the most part, I stayed strong- because they needed me. But even now, almost a month later, I find it hard to 'let it go' and cry over my broken heart.
But thinking about her loss helped me feel a scene from my middle grade historical novel where a young boy loses a friend. It's during World War II, and the friend is a soldier in Hitler's army. Like with my aunt's illness, death and loss were hovering in the background, waiting for their opportunity.
I didn't add a lot of drama with the revision; my character, a 13-year-old boy named Tomas, of a sturdy Germanic family, isn't going to scream or pull his hair, or faint. He's going to be strong, like his parents and like the little soldier the Third Reich expects him to be.
But he can't. He throws himself into his mother's arms and cries, his whole body shaking.
That's it. That's the end of the chapter and that scene. For a boy trying to be stalwart during oppressive times, completely breaking down like that is expressing his grief.
Eventually, characters and people have to let loose, no matter how hard it is.
Clip art courtesy of Microsoft/Bing