Emotional distance

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

A frequent criticism I receive of my stories from the various crit groups to which I belong is that my writing is emotionally distant.

I don’t know for sure why this is, but I have my suspicions.  It could be my innate Kiwi stoicism.  It could be that I’m too enamoured with the idea of juxtaposing shocking events with indifferent emotional responses from my characters, and I need to move on.  It could be that I don’t know how to write emotion without it sounding trite.

Or it could be that I’m afraid to confront painful emotion.

Like in this story.  I struggled to write it, I struggle to read it, and to hear it read aloud by a male narrator… it hurt.  And I cried.

In my defense, my capacity to cope with…well, just about anything, really… has been all but obliterated by my only getting two hours sleep last night.  Any minute now, I’m going to start hallucinating.

Anyway, take a listen.  See what you think.  Am I a wuss?  You decide.

  1. A J says:

    the guy reading it sounded bored – made it very hard to listen to – I think it would have sounded better with almost anyone else narrating it;. Some stories just aren’t going to work in every format and with every reader -Just because you’re generally brilliant doesn’t mean you’re always brilliant – or that a style that works well with one type of story will work all the time etc etc.

    You got a crit group at the mo to tidy up passive voice etc – or have you moved past the mere mortal stage?

    • lol A J, Phoenix WSIG heard the first draft of this story, so maybe I can shrug off the blame for its inadequacies onto you!

      Seriously, though, the Phoenix crew were such good teachers and were so supportive that I felt lost without you when I moved to Melbourne, and it took three crit groups (one face-to-face and two online) to replace them.

      • A J says:

        lols – don’t do that – or we’ll take the credit for the good ones too 🙂 besides you’re probably not aware but the writer’s group isn’t quite the same since you left anyway.

        Personally I think tight third is the way to go. It’s so close to first without having the self-obsessed turn-off thing that first person seems to generate – unless the story is really about someone/something else. Although I can’t talk, I’m rather fond of first person – and I have a better record for getting them published too. At least for my solos. 🙂

        PS have you heard back from Phoenix (the main group yet)?

      • Crit groups do seem to wax and wane. Maybe you need a few fresh-faced newbies to inject a bit of enthusiasm into the old gang.

        No, I haven’t heard from Phoenix yet. Did I mention before, our printer is meant to be opening a plant in Melbourne in June this year, which will make for quicker, cheaper shipping. I’d almost be inclined to hold off consolidating any arrangements until then.

  2. Diana says:

    I didn’t listen to the story because my attention wanders when I listen to a story on tape. So I checked one of your other stories. You’re using a lot of passive voice sentences: was, were, had, have, etc. Passive voice creates distance. Try changing these to active voice and see what kind of feedback you get.

    For example: I was looking at her. (passive) –> I looked at her. (active)
    She had gone to town. (passive) –> She went to town. (active)

    • Yep. Got slapped on the hand at crit group recently for using ‘-ing’ too much.

      It’s not just that – my characters often don’t seem to react appropriately to the events in the stories, especially when I use first person. It’s all “this happened, and then that happened, and then that happened”. It’s a hard habit to break – I do so love my first person POV.

      • Diana says:

        Huh. With that type of feedback, you need to step back from both your story and the critter giving that feedback to see whether it’s applicable or not.

        Is the character reacting “inappropriately” with respect to their character or with respect to the way “most people would react” or how the critter would react in that situation?

        Some people believe that the way they would react in a situation is the way everyone would react or should react to a situation. If the critter is like this, then their feedback may not be applicable to your character. I once had a critter say he couldn’t believe that one of my characters would take the appearance of a ghost with such nonchalance because if a ghost appeared to him he would scream and mess his pants. The character was a special forces type person, screaming would have been completely out of character.

        You may not have to give up first person POV. In fact, it can be an excellent POV to use with someone who is stoic as their internal thought process can be easily shown in first person POV. Outwardly, there is no reaction, but internally the stoic is reacting with their thoughts. Maybe all you need to do is inject some thoughts in between this happened, that happened, and then this. Or show the minor “tells” of an internal reaction: clenching a fist, jiggling a foot, biting a lip, etc.

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