Monday, December 5, 2011
Using my powers of sentimentality for good, and not for evil
"Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. Use your powers of sentimentality for good, not for evil."
My high school creative writing teacher said that to me once. I try. I really do. But sometimes its so hard to control myself, even when I want to.
I am an...lets use the word effusive (effervescent, exuberant) type of person. I get told to calm down a lot. And that translates heavily into writing, where the things that matter most to me in my stories are not the plot twists or elaborate settings, its the dig-down soul-searching heart-wrenching moments that happen inside the character.
And that's not such a bad thing in and of itself, I think the emotion has to be there for the story to reach people. But(and this is where it gets hard for me) they can't happen always all the time. Otherwise it gets sentimental (sappy, saccharine). You have to earn those emotionally climactic moments for them to stand out and be effective.
I know all this, and still have a hard time. It is much, much easier for me to make emotions happen than to make things happen, and that can make for very mushy writing. I'm grateful that my sentimental tendencies were pointed out to me at an early age by a wise and very helpful teacher, and I'm learning when to give in and when not to. But I guess my question is, how do I keep the emotion high when the scene is more action-oriented rather than emotion-oriented? How do I know when I've gone too far with the sentimentality?
When editing comes I know one of the things I'm going to be doing is adding action and concrete detail and draining some of the mush. Keeping my bad habits in mind as I write helps, but I know I'll need to go back and fix even more, and I'm getting pretty good at catching myself either as I write or afterwards. Don't worry, I'm not going to be putting out anything that hasn't been meticulously combed through by me and bunches of other people much smarter then me. They're the ones who can really act as my gauge.
So yeah, how do you find an emotional balance throughout every scene? What are your evil writer tendencies?