|By Alex (Flickr: ) via Wikimedia Commons|
I wanted to scream. Throw a tantrum, Or snap my fingers and mute the world.
But I'm a writer, so I didn't do any of these things.
Instead I sat very still and listened. Listened to what my body was telling me, listened to my inner monologue--both what I did and did not want.
Why? Because frustration is one of the key emotions that drives fiction, one commonly triggered by an unmet desire.
And we all know what unmet desires are, don't we? They are the driving force of tension. And tension is what moves stories forward. (For more on this helpful definition of tension, see Steven James's Story Trumps Structure.)
So the next time you feel like punching someone because you are stuck in traffic, or the dog ate your shoes, or the kids won't give you ten minutes of peace to write, stop. Pay attention to how your body feels. Listen to the words screeching in your head. This is an emotion you need to know inside out, because it will help you write stronger scenes.
And when you're out and about and witness someone else about to explode, watch (from a safe distance) and record what you observe.
- What facial expressions does a frustrated person have?
- What postures, gestures, and motions does the person use?
- How does the frustrated person talk about his/her feelings?
- What colorful phrases and idioms come out?
How might you use your writerly mind to turn everyday experiences into fiction fodder?