Saturday, October 13, 2012

Learning how to describe emotions and feelings in our writing

By Dennis Mellersh

One of the important abilities we need to acquire in our efforts towards learning how to write a book is that of developing the skill of describing emotion or states of mind by actively showing or demonstrating feelings or emotions.

This will make our writing, and therefore our books, much more vital and alive than simply using non-complex adjectives to describe an emotion, such as sad, dejected, happy or angry.

One aspect of this was discussed in my October 10, 2012 post talking about the need in good writing for showing instead of telling, particularly in fiction.

One of the emotions that many of us experience as we grow older is a sense that the wonder we felt about life and the world in general is less intense and childlike; and is now more tempered and mature.

If we are writing about such a feeling or emotion, it would be rather flat and less evocative to simply say that we have lost our sense of wonder or amazement about the world, compared to when we were younger.

By contrast, here are a few passages showing this feeling from the poem Ode:  Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, by William Wordsworth.

It is interesting that Wordsworth considered it necessary to tell us in the title what the poem is about. My personal feeling is he could have let the writing speak for itself to deliver the meaning or message. He also wrote an extensive preface to the poem explaining it.

You may recognize some of these words from high school English literature classes:
There was a time when meadow grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore—
Turn whereso’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

But yet, I know, where’er I go,
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.

Wither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;

The next time you are reading a novel, other fiction, or any kind of book that interests you, consider paying attention to, and perhaps writing out passages, that demonstrate an effective way to convey feelings and emotions.

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