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Emotional Involvement – Tip 6

emotional Involvement image from robin hawdon, author and playwright.

Emotional Involvement is perhaps the most crucial item in a writer’s inventory. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your concept, how sparkling your dialogue, how meaningful your insights – if you as the writer don’t have that emotional involvement at every point of the story, it will lack conviction and intensity.

This is what makes the task so mentally exhausting, and why you need to take a break every so often.

I find that the hardest work comes in the revising. Having completed the main bones of the section I’m working on, I then go over and over it (whole blog on revising to come) actually imagining each moment, feeling each description or verbal exchange, and considering whether I can take it further or make it more potent.

The best way to illustrate the process is to use a couple of examples taken randomly from my novel ‘Number Ten’:-

First Draft Emotional Involvement

At that moment the Prime Minister entered, the tall figure of his Chief of Staff at his side, followed by the Home Secretary and a couple of others.’

OK, that tells the story. But it doesn’t tell the reader anything else of interest.

Second Draft

At that moment the Prime Minister entered, the tall figure of his Chief of Staff at his side, followed by the Home Secretary and a couple of others. A bevy of formal suits, of different shapes and sizes, yet in their expressions all oddly conforming.’

A bit more interesting, but still not very insightful. How can we add some Emotional Involvement?

Third Draft

At that moment the Prime Minister entered, the tall figure of his Chief of Staff at his side, followed by the Home Secretary and a couple of others. A bevy of formal suits, of different shapes and sizes, yet in their expressions all oddly conforming. The politician’s face of intensity and wariness.’

That paints the picture much more vividly. One could expand even further, but the reader has probably read enough about politicians for the moment!

Another example, of Emotional Involvement, this time involving the emotions more:-

First Draft

‘Not for the first time, his brain seemed to be malfunctioning. The circumstances laid before it fitted no intelligible pattern that he could understand. He was in love with Andrea, of that he had no doubt. They had survived a whole sequence of life-threatening events together. Bu now he was confronted by a stranger.’

That describes a crisis in the relationship between the pair at the centre of the story, but it doesn’t do justice to its intensity. We need more Emotional Involvement still

Second Draft

‘Not for the first time, his brain seemed to be malfunctioning. The circumstances laid before it fitted no intelligible pattern that he could understand. He was in love with Andrea, of that he had no doubt. They had survived a whole sequence of life-threatening events together. They had proved themselves an effective team, they had achieved a precious mutual harmony, they had reached heights of physical love beyond anything he had experienced. But now he was confronted by a stranger. Someone whose thoughts, whose actions, whose very being was a mystery to him.’

Better, Emotional Involvement exists but can his own feelings be painted more vividly?

Third Draft

Add this at the end:-

‘ He felt like an abandoned traveler, lost in a desert with no landmarks.’

OK it’s not Emily Brontë, but it brings the hero’s emotional predicament to life adequately.

All this also explains why many first drafts of novels involve less than 80,000 words, but when seriously rewritten can expand to 100,000 or even more. But as I’ve said, the emotional involvement is tiring!

The benefit, as I talked about in previous blogs, is that the exercise keeps the brain fit, in the same way that physical exercise does the body.

For an example of this Emotional Involvement on a much more epic scale, take a look at A Rustle in the Grass!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Robert, I must admit that this is an awesome article. Being emotional involved in your story can really spark high levels of creativity. It is a crucial method of the process to bring about a remarkable story. In the beginning stages of my writing, I struggled with not being emotional involved and delivered flat stories as a result. Once I identified the problem and made the changes to my writing prowess, I became a much better story teller.

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