“Avoiding the obvious when writing about extreme states of mind is a real challenge for any writer,” writes an anonymous contributor to What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. “Resorting to such cliches as “his heart was in his mouth,” “she was on cloud nine,” and “he flew off the handle” is far easier than figuring out what is really happening to someone scared, happy, or angry. You must translate the emotion of feeling into fresh, interesting language, rendering precisely or metaphorically what is taking place within the character.”
This is something I’ve gotten better and better about, particularly since the start of my novel, but truthfully, this is a continual struggle. Characters are put in a slew of situations which push their buttons and, as a writer, it can be challenging to uniquely and perceptively describe intense emotions each time. We writers have a lot to worry about like pacing, plot, setting… the list goes on. And occasionally, we can fall into the trap of describing an angry outburst with a cliche like “he flew off the handle.” It’s also hard to write hundreds of characters who all experience the same umbrella emotions like fear, anger, and pleasure in unique ways. So, I’ve got to do this exercise suggested by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.
“Write three short paragraphs, the first “fear,” the second “anger,” and the last “pleasure,” without using those words.” (Easy part.) “Try to render these emotions by describing physical sensations or images.” (Harder part.) “If you want, write mini-stories, dramatizing these emotions. Try to make your language precise and fresh.” (Hardest part.)
So I’m going to publish three flash fictions, each focusing on fear, anger, and pleasure, in that order. Help me out by commenting on my attempts or by emailing me your own attempts at email@example.com and I’ll put them up on the last day if they follow the rules above.
Let’s do it!