It’s easier writing emotions when you can just say what the character feels. We’ve all read books where the writer tells us exactly what the main character likes about another person. “He liked her pretty smile. He liked the way she walked. He liked her winning attitude. He liked everything about her.” Or how about using cliches to show emotions: “He faced another day of boredom. Doing the same things, eating the same food. Going to the same places. Nothing but the same old same old day in and day out.” *insert the reader crossing eyes in his/her own boredom here*
Readers don’t want to be told how a character felt, what he liked, hated, desired, or how he felt about his mother. But they will be all over books by an author who is writing emotions without telling them what the characters feel. Trust me — they can figure out the emotions for themselves.
Writing Emotions vs Telling
Now, let me say here that you must do a certain amount of telling. You must move character A to point B. You don’t have to describe every inch of the journey. It’s enough to say “They took the red-eye to London.” Or “Having crossed the room, he stood in the corner and waited for his enemy to make the first move.” That’s telling, and it’s fine. It’s not fine to say that he waited nervously, or with anticipation, etc. Show us his nervousness or whatever emotion he’s experiencing as he waits. Writing emotions means more than stating what they are. It means showing how the characters acts because he/she is experiencing them.
When I wrote Surrender Love in 2009, it won the EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction Erotic Romance. I have since learned a few things about writing, and decided I could do an even better job if I rewrote it now. I will release this book with Surrender Trust as soon as both are finished. I needed to write the villain’s story first, because I did not understand Pietas at all. Once I finished Bringer of Chaos: the Origin of Pietas and released it, I immediately started on the Surrender duo.
Incorporating emotion is vital in any story. How much more in a romance? I have changed Surrender Love from erotic romance to sweet by removing the explicit content, but not the sweeter aspect of the characters’ sensuality. At its heart, writing emotions into Surrender Love is vital: it is a romance. I believe the book and its sequel will have a wider audience and a stronger appeal.
Fair warning — you are unlikely to write shorter versions of your scenes when you add layers of description and begin writing emotions. But enough of me “telling” you I’ve changed it. See for yourself. I’ve given the opening of the original, followed by the same material of the revised. You be the judge. Which version better shows you the world in which the story takes place, and pulls you in to the emotional center of the characters? Please feel free to leave a comment.
Surrender Love Original (577 words)
While his android driver docked the hoversine with the rest of the fleet, Luc took three steps to the railing. The cool, damp breeze, heavy with the scent of rain, blew up the sheer sides of the building and buffeted his skin. Tarth City lay below in all its splendor, lights ablaze in every direction all the way to the horizon. Their glow cast a white sheen against flat clouds so close he could almost reach them. He closed his eyes, listening to the muffled roar of a sleepliner docking far off at the starport to the west. To the east, a rumble of thunder began and rolled overhead, threatening storms.
Luc gripped the handrail and braced himself against it, arms stiff, head down. No matter how late he worked, when he returned, the empty penthouse taunted him with memories. Some nights, it was all he could do to get out of the car. It had only been three weeks.
You’d think Wulf died. His heart ached as if he had. He shook his head, taking another sighing breath. Luc shoved himself away from the railing and trudged toward the Loft. You were lovers for five years. Give yourself time, old man. You’ll get over him. Maybe you’ll fall in love again someday. You’re immortal. Wulf isn’t. It would have happened eventually. You’ll get over him. After all, you have plenty of time.
Outside the entrance, he stopped, fingertips against his brow. He lifted his head, straightened his shoulders, and opened the door.
“Good evening, sir,” McDoth greeted him. The android butler bowed politely, his black-and-white uniform immaculate. “Welcome home. How was your day?”
“The usual, McDoth.” He shrugged out of his coat. “Busy, but accomplished nothing.”
The android took his coat and draped it across one arm. “Shall I see to your dinner, sir? Or did you eat at your club?”
“Not hungry, but thank you.” He headed for the bar and picked up a fresh bottle of Kelthian whiskey. “I’ll be in my room.”
“Very well, sir.” McDoth, the referee serving Luc as a butler in this lifetime, offered him a glass, but didn’t release it until Luc met his steady gaze. “I miss him as well.”
Luc swallowed, tongue jammed hard against the back of his teeth. When he could trust his voice, he cleared his throat. “Don’t worry over him. He’s made his choice. He has a new life.”
“It’s not him I’m worried about.”
Luc grunted. “Well, stop it. I’m fine. I’m over him.”
“I’ve served you too many lifetimes not to know when you’re lying. And I will worry over you if I wish. Please” — McDoth released it — “use the glass.”
Luc turned away, smiling despite himself. But in his room, he set the glass on the dresser and carried the bottle to his canopied bed. He sat on the end of it, refusing to face the man in the mirror across from him.
He opened the whiskey, tilted it up and drank half, wiped his chin, and grimaced. No alcohol affected him; he drank it for the memories of the people he’d loved and the times they’d shared. Luc wiped the top of the bottle with the heel of his hand and finished off the rest in two big gulps. Might as well have been tea. Nothing.
Drawing back the bottle in one hand, he paused and then hurled it at the mirror above his dresser. Glass shattered.
Surrender Love Revised (1475 words)
While James docked the car with the rest of the fleet, Luc trudged to the railing. Atop the Nizamrak Building, over two hundred stories above ground, he drew in the crisp evening air of autumn. He let it all out, lifting his face to the night sky.
A chilled breeze, heavy with the scent of rain, blew up the sheer sides of the building and buffeted his skin. To the east, a low boom of thunder began and rumbled overhead, threatening storms. A sleepliner docking at the starport to the west vibrated the air, its roar muffled. Tarth City lay below in all its splendor, lights ablaze to the horizon. The white marble of the Conqueror’s palace shone as if lit from within. Its walled grounds took up eight square city blocks.
Closer in, the Destine Pietan Stadium sent its bright glow upward, casting a white sheen against flat clouds. He refused to look toward the Thomas Gabriel Stadium, named in honor of Wulf’s father. Built at Luc’s personal expense, the massive complex had been presented to Wulf as a gift for their fifth anniversary, three weeks prior. Days before they parted.
He gripped the handrail and braced himself against it, arms stiff, head down. Up here, the hustle and hubbub of the city and the whoosh of traffic faded into the background. He rolled his shoulders. No matter how late he worked, when he returned, the empty penthouse taunted him with memories.
Stop it, old man. You’d think Wulf died.
Luc held his breath until his lungs screamed for air, but he waited, letting the pain build. At last, he released it, and drew in the night’s damp coolness.
Guess I’m still alive.
He pushed himself away from the railing and plodded toward the Loft.
A human got over old lovers and fell in love again. So should an immortal, accustomed to the brevity of emotion and the peril of mortal relationships. So why couldn’t he? Why did the weight of the empire crush his chest?
Luc was Sempervian. Immortal. Wulf human. They would have parted eventually. Mortals, no matter how much you loved them, died. Perhaps he needed more time. If there was anything he had plenty of, it was time.
Outside the entrance to his home, he stopped, fingertips against his brow. He lifted his head, straightened his shoulders, and opened the door. The scent of polished wood and fresh flowers greeted him. A hint of baking bread beckoned him, and his stomach growled in answer. He should eat.
Instead, he headed straight for the bar.
As usual, McDoth waited for him. The attentive look on his butler’s face was as predictable as his immaculate tuxedo uniform. With his graying hair and wrinkles, most people mistook him for human. A kindly, aging grandfather who still worked for a living. Like James, inside, the android was steel mixed with firepower and grit. More tyrannical than a nagging wife, and more tenacious than a weed. No matter how far Luc went, McDoth would follow, protecting him, serving him, while refusing to let him forget a single detail or obligation.
Had it been his choice, he would have fired McDoth years ago. Or killed him. In truth, the android deserved a medal. His tolerance and patience knew no bounds. Their strained relationship had lasted hundreds of years, and would for hundreds more. Luc would never be rid of him.
“Welcome home, sir.” The refined accent he’d been programmed with for this lifetime fit his aging outward appearance.
The android dropped a few ice cubes into a tumbler and set it on the bar. “Your whiskey, sir. Do try to limit yourself to one this evening.”
Here we go. The daily lecture. You eat too little. You drink too much. You work too late.
Luc reached past him and picked up a bottle of Kelthian whiskey.
“Allow me to take your overcoat.” The butler reached for it.
He turned to give his servant access, changing the bottle from one hand to the other as he slipped out of the garment.
“It’s quite late, sir. You must be tired.” He folded the coat over his arm. “How was your day?”
“Same as yesterday. Busy, but I accomplished nothing.” He darted toward the stairs.
He halted, gripping the banister so hard he expected to see marks when he let go. The promise of solitude in his chambers above beckoned, but there would be no ignoring McDoth and his usual third degree. He checked an impatient sigh, and turned back. “What?”
McDoth came to even sharper attention, his habitual passivity giving way to concern. “Shall I bring you dinner? No records show you ate today, unless the earlier visit to your club included dining on someone else’s account.”
“I’m capable of asking for food if I’m hungry, and I don’t need a reminder you keep electronic tabs on me. I have no illusions about being your true employer. I’m not hungry. I’m fine. Stop fussing over me.”
“As you wish, sir.” The butler brought him the tumbler. “Remember, just one.”
Luc lifted the bottle of whiskey and wagged it right in the android’s face. “I will. Goodnight. I won’t need help. I’m going to bed early.” Luc had taken three steps up the stairs when McDoth spoke again.
“You are not the only one who misses him.”
Luc halted. He jammed his tongue hard against his teeth. While his android servant offered compassion, the knowledge he would report changes in Luc’s behavior prickled a bite of anger. When he trusted his voice, he cleared his throat. After taking a lower step, he turned back.
His expression must have been a warning. The android backpedaled.
“McDoth, forget Wulf. He made his choice. He has a new life with another immortal. I gave them my blessing. Don’t worry about him.”
“It is not Master Wulf who worries me.”
This again. Fighting to be civil, he clutched a handful of his short curls and tightened his grip to the point of pain. He dragged his hand back through his hair. Wulf he had let go. Would he ever recover from the loss of love? Would he ever recapture the openness and trust he’d craved?
“Sir?” McDoth crept closer. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Stop worrying about me. I’m over him.”
“I have served you too many lifetimes not to recognize a lie. As I do not directly report to you, I will worry over whom I wish.”
Temper flaring, he had to bite the inside of his cheeks to refrain from lashing out. He needed no reminder whom McDoth served, nor why. The fact that neither of them had a choice in the matter kept him silent.
McDoth offered the tumbler again, and Luc snatched it, making the ice inside fly out. He pounded up the stairs to his room.
He slammed the glass on the dresser. When a chip flew from the base, regret flashed over him. He’d promised McDoth he’d stop breaking glass, but the chip didn’t give him the satisfaction he’d sought. With a perverse sense of pleasure, he picked the tumbler back up, and smashed it down even harder. It cracked, and then split in half. One jagged edge stabbed his palm.
He savored the hot flow of blood across his skin, and spread his hand, opening the wound. The momentary spike of pain took his mind away from his heart. By the time he’d lifted his hand to examine it, the bleeding had slowed. The wound closed, leaving him with his never-healing heart threatening to tear itself out of his chest.
He dragged himself over to his canopied bed and sat. Refusing to face the man in the mirror across from him, Luc opened the bottle of whiskey, tilted it up, and drank half. Alcohol didn’t affect Sempervians. They drank the way they healed–and fought: with elegant efficiency and the determination of the damned.
Nothing hurt for long, except loneliness. That persisted, clamping itself closer than a shadow on a snowy winter day.
He drank more, using the whiskey to launch memories of people he’d loved and times he’d enjoyed sharing the drink. Since Wulf left, those memories brought him more pain than pleasure.
He finished the liquor in gulps. It might as well have been tea. Nothing. The empty bottle held no more promise than the full one, and drinking it fast was the same as sipping.
A man had a right to a good bender now and then, but Luc’s immortal metabolism denied it. He drew back the bottle, and hurled it at the mirror above the dresser.
Glass shattered, as fragmented and ruined as his life. A shambles no one could reassemble. Like the love he’d wanted with Wulf, pieces would always be missing. Empty scattered places nothing could fill.
There you have it. Writing emotions takes up more space, and is more time-consuming to do. But the powerful enhanced scenes make a story that’s exciting to read. For more about Luc and Rah (his younger hero from Surrender Love) visit their Pinterest page.
What are the emotions Luc is displaying here? Leave a comment and share your opinion. I’d love to see what you think.
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