It happened again this weekend. Saturday, we celebrated a parishioner's 70th birthday, complete with clowns and a cookout, and Sunday, we comforted the bereaved at yet another funeral (see last post). Fun times. Sad times. Happy times. Grieving times. Up and down we go, my husband and me.
I experienced a totally new level of emotion at Sunday's funeral when I learned this: when the grave diggers dug the grave for the elderly woman, they found an infant's casket! No marker. No records. No way to know who this baby was.
A wave of sadness gushed over me as I thought about a set of young parents burying their baby in this country church cemetery in the "boonies," miles from anything and anybody. Curiosity washed over me, then. Did they do it illegally? Legally? Why did the baby die? Was it sick? What kind of sickness? Born dead? Sheer sorrow surfaced when I thought, Was it a young girl--or her family--who secretly buried her baby as she tried to hide the evidence of her "sin"?
Friday, I blogged about novelists needing to learn to emote as they write fiction. Webster's says emote
means "to give expression to emotion," and emotion is defined as "feeling," "excitement," "disturbance." Emotional
means "arousing emotion."
If that's one thing I have down pat, it's to emote.
My first work of fiction is "I Take Thee, A Stranger," a novella (short novel) in American Dream
(sold out and out of print). Read my first chapter here.
It's about an arranged marriage in 1885.
As I wrote it, I asked myself, "How would I feel if I had to marry a man I'd never met, because it was the only thing I could do after my lad of a husband died, mere months after we came to America from Scotland? If I didn't, I would wind up in a house of ill repute. What would it be like when I saw this strange man for the first time? How would I feel when I exchanged wedding vows with him? What would I do or say when I walked into his house? Saw his bedroom? Our
Just thinking about it made doodads run up and down my back. Of nervousness. Fear. Squeamishness.
I was sure my character, Corinn, experienced all of that, too. (To a novelist, our characters are living and breathing; that's how I knew how she felt. :) ).
As I wrote, I transferred the emotions I was feeling to her.
She was relieved when he gave her a separate bedroom.
She was hurt when he ignored her week after week.
She was angry when he was stern with his little girls.
She was happy when she came to love his delightful children.
She was unhappy when she came to love him
...because he rebuffed her.
You get the picture.
For some authors, this comes naturally. For others, they struggle. Sometimes, I have to tone down my characters' emotions. For example, they are too
down, or too
thrilled, or too
Readers have been enthusiastic about my writing.
After reading "I Take Thee, A Stranger" in American Dream
, a reader said, "This isn't the kind of fiction that you just
read. You feel
it, and you want to read it over and over."
A great compliment!
Another: "You have a Stephen King flair. You drink me into your story in the first few pages."
Another: "Are you black? Or do you just have empathy?" (My heroine was a slave.)
Reading these letters helped me develop my brand as a fiction author:
"Fiction you can feel...lights, camera, heart!"