One of the most important goals of any fiction writer is getting the reader to connect on an emotional level with the story’s characters.
But how do you accomplish this without being clumsy—without saying, directly, “Joe felt so upset he wanted to die,” which takes you right into the heart of cliché?
John Thorton Williams offers this suggestion:
[Take] into consideration how a certain character would experience a particular setting or image based on his/her emotional state. Something as simple as a car parked on the street surely looks different to a lottery winner than to someone who just got evicted. In other words, indirection of image is a way to take abstract emotions and project them onto something concrete. Doing so creates the potential to explore interiority at a greater depth than what’s afforded by mere exposition.
Williams goes on to show a specific example from William Gay’s fiction. Click here to read the full piece over at Glimmer Train.
For more writing advice and inspiration from Glimmer Train, check out these pieces:
- My City (or, On the Idea of Making It My Own) by Aurelie Sheehan
- Puzzle and Mystery by Peter Turchi
- The Creative Process: A Diuretic Metaphor by Greg Schreur
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.