At an early age, writers are instructed to show, not tell. Exercises help writers improve their ability to transport readers to any place imaginable, and depict all five senses through words. From the moment I began work on my Capstone Project, which focuses on a trip I took to Japan 8 months ago, I knew that showing my writer the places I visited through writing would be key to completing a well-rounded piece. I tried, and have succeeded, in painting vivid images through words. Yet one area of my project that has been a serious challenge has been the portrayal of my emotions during my trip through writing.
One of the difficulties in writing about emotion stems from experience: different people experience emotions different ways. Identifying the proper metaphors or descriptions to portray emotions can be challenging. One helpful tip I received was to use physical descriptions as a conduit for emotions. For instance, describing beads of sweat forming above an eyebrow is a nice and easy way to portray nervousness or fear.
Another difficulty is striking the balance between over-encumbering a reader with emotional descriptions, and leaving too much up to the reader’s imagination. We always strive to force our readers to do some work as they process our writing and imagine our descriptions. Yet leaving readers with too much work to do, or creating descriptions that are not tight enough, can damage the lens and message that a piece is attempting to deliver.
I’m curious to hear if other writers on the Minor in Writing blog have struggled with depicting emotion in their writing. What methods or tips can you share for crafting emotional and thought-process descriptions that are both accessible and deep enough for readers?