Pep & Prompt #9: Pick An Emotion, Any Emotion…

Hey there, personface. Today we’re gonna be talking about feeeelings and emoooootions and all that human stuff.  

Luckily, we are all experts in feelings by the sheer merit of being alive.

Some of them make life worth living (lurve, hope, pride, awe).

Some, we may not be very good at dealing with (guilt, anger, frustration, jealousy).

And then there are certain emotions that just – hoo boy – kick us right in the knackers (grief, loss, regret, arghhh).

But no matter how grim it gets, life has a cheeky habit of coming right back round to slap us with something that makes us laugh or feel grateful or content or lucky to be alive. IT’S A ROLLERCOASTER OF FEELS.

Gif of No-Face from Spirited Away being hit by a wave upon which is written the word 'feels'

And, y’know, isn’t this what ultimately bonds us and unites us across oceans and centuries and wild disparities in culture and life experience?

We, as humans, all feel the same things, in some form or other. Like, woah.

Which means you can write about any goshdarn emotion you like, however you like, and someone, somewhere, will identify with it.

Time to feel things, y’all.

Pick an emotion, any emotion…

FIRST: Clicky here to randomise a handful of emotions and feelings and things

THEN: Quick, quick, before you have time to overthink it, pick one emotion and run with it.

NEXT: Write down everything you know about that feeling – from a personal point of view and from your observation of others. 

  • How does it make you feel physically? Eg: where in your body do you experience this emotion?
  • How many different types/layers of this emotion can you identify? Eg: second-hand embarrassment, shame, that hot and flustered feeling when your crush is paying attention to you…
  • What happens when it’s mixed with another emotion? Eg: Fear/excitement, or envy/admiration?
  • How do different people react differently to this emotion? Eg: positively, negatively, awkwardly, poorly? What happens if they repress/deny it?
  • What specific memories/experiences does this emotion conjure up for you? Eg: think of your earliest experience of this emotion, and compare with your most recent…
  • If you have a work-in-progress or story in mind, what happens when you apply this emotion to your protagonist? How do they react? Is this reaction affected by their backstory? How does their ability to deal with this emotion impact on their actions/journey through the story?

Set a timer for 10 minutes, freewrite some notes around your chosen emotion and see what comes out of your marvellous, feels-filled brainpan.

Gif of a man saying "I don't know why I'm getting emotional."

Done? Felt some feely things? Made some interesting writerly connections? Sparked off a story idea or two? Yes? No? It doesn’t matter. Hit that randomiser button and try again. And again. As many times as you like, until you have a veritable treasure trove of descriptions and analogies and inspiration to add an element of emotional realism to your writing.

And the next time you’re feeling something – reeeeally feeling something – see if you can remove yourself from the reality of the moment for a second and take note of all those little details we’ve just explored. How does this emotion feel? What caused it? Is it connected with some other emotion, memory, trigger, or experience? And how are you going to deal with it?

Get in touch with your feels, people – on and off the page. It’s what makes us human, after all.

A BRIEF ASIDE: Hey, look, guys. This one might bring you a little close to the bone, so be mindful of your writerly/emotional limits. But also – while writing should not be a substitute for therapy – this exercise also doubles as a bit of a brain massage. The simple act of stopping and taking note of your feelings can be a pretty darn good way of helping yourself through difficult emotions. Sometimes just observing your emotions as an outsider allows you to think more objectively and stay calm enough to work through the situation. Plus, it’s great fodder for your fiction, right? Just be gentle if you find yourself tapping into a particularly tricky feeling/memory.

Gif of Will Ferrell in Anchorman standing inside a phone booth yelling "I'm in a glass case of emotion!"

Let us know how you’re feeling (boom boom) on the forum and reuse, recycle and repeat this exercise whenever you need to get a handle on the emotional side of your writing. Or life. Or whatever. 

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