Saturday, November 6, 2010

Motion vs Emotion

Warning! Spoiler alert . . . do not read further if you already know how to write great tension. Evidently, I don't. Just received a rejection letter from an agent. I know, I know. They suck. But, to be fair, she gave me an excellent rejection. Told me that 'there is just no tension'. It wasn't an awful rejection. I got some encouragement. 'You do have something here . . . you just have to really strengthen it with emotion and connections.'

That got me to thinking. I had the motion down pat. Motion is the chorography. It's what your characters are doing. Looking across a crowded room, sucking blood from an enemy. Usually it comes first. I would say it is the five senses in action. You show your characters seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, even sensing. That I could write and the reader knew what was happening in the story.

But the emotion was missing. I believe when it comes to writing the best definition for the word is 'the part of the consciousness that involves feeling; sensibility'. Emotion makes us care, feel. Here's a thought--emotion is the music in a book. What do I mean? Have you ever watched a scary movie with mute on? Try it. The movie isn't half as scary. So, if emotion is missing in a book, there isn't any tension. The reader doesn't care about the characters.

I should really thank that agent for hitting me on the head. She made me stop and think. We need motion in our stories, but to make the reader excited and enthused, there must be emotion.

In conclusion, I've got a couple questions to throw at you. Has an agent ever given you details about how to improve your writing? Did you take it? What's your strength--motion or emotion?


  1. Oh boy, does this one hit home for me. I'm definitely in the motion club. Emotion is the most difficult part of writing for me (well, okay, pacing can be problematic too)--I don't want my characters to wallow in their heads, and yet they have to both think and feel. One thing I'm trying in my current manuscript (I'll have to let you know if it works) is writing scenes in first person from my character's POV, just so I can get in their heads better, and then going back and switching it back to third person.

  2. I had a well known editor rip me to shreds three years detail. I love her for it. True, I cried for two hours after reading her crit, but I got over it and prospered once I stopped pouting and took her words to heart. She helped me more than any other single person by telling my exactly what I was doing wrong.

  3. Hi Suzanne & JC --- a member of my critique group writes her first draft in first person, then coverts to third. It must work because she just finished her second book for her publisher. The first book is out and already being nominated for awards.

    I know the agent was trying to help me, and I really appreciate her time and advice. Right now I'm going through my current WIP and trying to tighten and add that tension to make the reader connect with characters. It's tough, but hopefully will be worth the effort. Keep your fingers crossed.

  4. I'd tried the first person stuff, the trick is to move into third and keep that involvement.

    Kudos on making the connection to music. I recently watched a special on the making of the original "Halloween" and how when it was watched without the music, it just didn't do well. Add in that soundtrack and it scared everyone!

    Darcy, try writing with some perfect music playing in the background. Something that really would work if your book were turned into a movie. Lyrics that speak to what your characters are feeling. You know they are feeling it, even if you're having a difficult time writing it!

  5. I've heard of people using music to put them in the mood. Celtic tunes when writing an Irish historical. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a music person. Can't carry a tune. Was even asked not to sing the national anthem as a kid. Even today, every time I try to sing around my sister, she starts to giggle and can't stop. But I'll give it a try.