A Type Of Figurative Language That Compares Two Unlike Things Create Emotion, Not Sentimentality, in Fiction

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Create Emotion, Not Sentimentality, in Fiction

Good writing requires the use of emotion in both the writing and the writer or writer. Yes? Emotion in the writing itself and the author? Yes, good writing requires emotion from the words and from the writer. In fact, good writing requires creative and effective use of emotion, not overuse.

Crafting fiction without emotion, whether in a short story or a novel, results in showing more. Storytelling can provide readers with necessary information, but exposition allows the reader to “see” the events, actions, and plot. Showing emotion without resorting to sentimentality is a key component of writing vivid, powerful stories that readers can imagine.

Most classes in high school and college focus on thinking, the mind. Teachers and professors encourage or even require students to use big words, figures of speech, literary devices, and long, dense sentences to create emotion in their writing.

Yes, figures of speech and literary devices have their place in poetry. Yes, figures of speech can convey complex emotions in fiction, if used sparingly and creatively. But, according to Stephen King, figurative language when overused or misused About writing“The results are hilarious and sometimes embarrassing.”

However, emotions are necessary in fiction. According to Dianna Dorisi-Winget’s book Let’s Get Physical! Writing Emotion in Fiction, since emotions are an integral part of the human condition, “…fiction writers should use imagery that accurately conveys the character’s feelings.” However, he continues, the simplistic and overused descriptions leave the reader unimpressed. Using clichés (those simple and overused words or phrases) results in sentimentality.

When we talk or read about highly emotional topics like romance and death, we are tempted to use clichés. After all, they are everywhere and represent shortcuts we use in song and lyrics. Kristen Williams points out in her book No Room for Hallmark that we should avoid these shortcuts in our articles.

Williams defines sentimentality such as exaggerated and effective use of emotions in writing. Affected is more associated with clichés and melodramas, which “play” on emotion, only superficially without any substance or justification. Writing emotions like this are shortcuts, not new perspectives to experience.

Writers, especially beginners, use sentimentality because it’s easy to do. Complex situations are difficult to perceive or describe. Using sentimentality means presenting everything in black and white rather than exploring the complications that actually exist. “Good writers,” says Williams, “will dive right into that complexity instead of staying on the surface.”

In his article “Leave Them With Hope,” James Scott Bell echoes this idea: “Go deep into your character’s heart. As an author, you need to feel as big an emotion as your fantastic creation.”

Authors can avoid sentimentality without losing the emotion needed to reach readers. A writer must deal with emotion in an original and complex way, trying to avoid merely abstract words and ideas. This is done by staying with specific descriptions. As Bell says, the author must experience the emotion and describe it with the five senses, writing as he “feels” it. Abstract words and ideas can be interpreted by others in different ways based on the readers definition. It takes details to make the emotion come alive.

How can writers avoid “sentimentality”? One exercise is to list common reactions to an emotion. The author then explores the physical reactions that emotions produce, and simple and overused images are physical reactions to emotion. However, the idea is to find other ways to explain these reactions so that the reader is not left unmoved. “The trick,” says Dorisi-Winget, “is to tap into your memory of the emotion.” Go beyond the heartbeat and the clenched fist.”

If you describe the fear, “sick stomach” can be skewed like when seasickness makes dinner want to run away. The details tell the tale; If used creatively and well, the details “tell” the story.

Writers should not completely avoid abstract thoughts and words, but most of the description should be concrete. Williams says that when he uses emotion in his writing, he uses more than twenty percent abstract and at least eighty percent detail.

Avoiding sentimentality allows you to use the writer’s perspective, not someone else’s. Writers then create the emotion required in “good” fiction.

Sources:

1. Bharti Kirchner, “It’s Showtime!” Writer August 2005.

2. Dianna Dorisi-Winget, “Let’s Get Physical! Writing Emotions in Fiction”, Byline February 2006.

3. Ellen Macaulay, “Acting Lessons”, Writer April 2005.

4. James Scott Bell, “Leave Them in Hope,” Writer’s Digest December 2005.

5. Kristen Williams, “No Place for Hallmark,” http://www.wow-schools.net/hallmark.htm.

6. Robert Olen Butler, “The Dynamics of Desire,” Writer October 2005.

7. William G. Tapply, “Don’t be a SHOWOFF”, Writer November 2005.

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