Monday, October 29, 2012

Descriptive Emotion From Deep in the Brain

Writers paint words across the page not only to describe a physical setting but to elicit emotion. A reader might visualize people gathered around a coffin but what words will get him or her to feel emotions such as grief or love toward the deceased? 'Tears' are a concrete detail that sinks into the middle layer of the brain. Intellectually the reader knows the character is showing grief but a writer wants the reader to experience that grief as well. Rich, sensory detail goes deeper to achieve that desirable emotional connection in a fully engaged reader.

In her book  Word Paining, Rebecca McClanahan talks about the three-layered brain. Readers need to go beyond the neocortex that categorizes information and into the mesocortex which allows them to feel it or they will not care about the characters or what is happening. Grief or love is too big a topic. Break it down, shrink it with small details that authentically describe--not label or explain--through the use of active verbs with concrete and sensory detail. This takes practice. Great description is worth all the revision it takes.

Don't get bogged down in the mists of abstract emotions. Use the senses and be clear with concrete images.

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