Let’s imagine that you are writing an epic fantasy with battles and dragons. Your hero is about to face the fiery breath of the treacherous beast, his heart is pounding and sweat is dripping from his brow…
Apart from being extremely cliché, your hero’s fear does not sound realistic. What to do? You have not faced a terrifying dragon before, but the dog a couple of doors down might suffice. The only way to know how something feels is to trigger that emotion and I have found a away to help do that!
What you need to do is create a scenario to elicit that emotion. For me, I decided that I would try to describe how fear felt for me and what I did was go on a roller coaster at Luna Park in Sydney. Firstly, you should know that I have a fear of heights and it has been known to make me cry. I hate roller coasters for the dropping feeling. For me, it is not the height that scares me, it is the drop to come down. You can throw me around and put me in rides that make me want to vomit, but please I beg of you do not force me to go on a roller coaster. I can hear the Sydney siders laughing at me, because to be honest the Luna Park roller coaster is ‘small’ for carnival standards. Okay, it is for children. Still, it makes me nervous.
Setting the Scene:
It was a beautiful summer’s day in the Sydney harbour. I could see the beautiful harbour bridge and my wonderful boyfriend begins tell me all about the great white sharks that want to eat me in the wharf waters. We buy our tickets and begin on the rides that I love, those that rattle your brain and fling your body to and fro. All too quickly, we make it to the Wild Mouse Roller Coaster on the water’s edge. I have been on it before, but despite knowing what is coming to me, I am still nervous.
I could feel my palms starting to sweat and I noticed I was constantly rubbing my fingers to my palms. I blamed it on the heat of course. I also fidgeted, a lot. Moving my bag to one shoulder, then the other and leaning my weight from one foot to the next. My stomach was sinking constantly at the thought of dropping and it was pounding around in my stomach like a bullet in a steel can. I tried not to think of the drop, but I couldn’t help myself. I think I felt a masochistic joy out of the fear as it was mingled in excitement. I knew that I would like it once I was done- it’s just getting to the end that was scary.
Something that was absolute news to me, which my boyfriend pointed out, is that I smile and laugh a lot when I am nervous. As soon as he mentioned it, I realised that he was right! I would not stop smiling and laughing at nothing or the thought of falling. I would even rabble, on and on about pointless things more often than normal, which the boys enjoyed because they both love to ramble also. They delight in my pointless rambling, because it was verging on hysteria and they laughed quite a bit.
I hope from the above, that you can hear the panic in my writing. I can never tell myself, if that kind of thing is coming through or not. Although, believe me as I was writing this and visualising it, my heart was racing, my stomach began to lurch and my typing got very quick!
What you can do to help your writing is dependent upon what you are trying to express:
· Fear: Go face your fear and take a journal to jot down how you felt, before and straight after.
· Love: If you are single, go on a date or ask out the person you like to coffee? For those otherwise engaged, do something out of the box together which will produce a rush of love hormone and write it down.
· Friendship: Find your best friend, tell them you are both going to do something stupid and do trust exercises, or go do a class together. Anything that solidifies your bond.
This doesn’t have to strictly be to express ‘love’ or ‘hate’. You can use this exercise to find out what it would feel like doing certain things. What if your character does something for a living that you do not know what it would be like to do, for instance:
· If your character was a musketeer in renaissance France: Go Fencing or shooting!
· If your character was from the medieval era: Go to a medieval fair or join a medieval club. I go to the Winterfest in Parramatta Park every year!
The possibilities are endless! Stay tuned for other experiences following this exercise to come! The fencing one sounds awesome!
Please let me know in the comments below, what you think of this exercise! If you try it I beg you to drop me a line and tell me how it went!