WRITTEN ON YOUR FACE

HOW TO PORTRAY OTHER CHARACTERS’ EMOTIONS IN FIRST PERSON

We’ve discussed the advantages to both FP and TP for the past few days. There are other POVs to consider such as third-person limited and third-person narrative, but being able to write well in either FP or TPO will provide the necessary skills for these other two POVs.

Today I would like to show the art at which other characters’ emotions are displayed through FP. The key element to keep in mind whenever you are writing in FP is to remember not to be a PSYCHIC (a post from earlier this week).

That said, the narrator does have the ability to relay to the reader the perceived emotions of the characters.

The perception of these emotions could be correct or incorrect, depending on how reliable you want your narrator to be. But I have found that a reliable narrator is more appealing. If done well, either way could add value to your story.

However, a narrator that is reliable keeps the reader from second-guessing the narrator’s perspective. This pulls the reader into the story with a greater willingness to commit to whatever the writer wants the reader to believe.

First person is done well whenever the reader feels that the events happening in the story are tangible, as if the reader herself is experiencing what the narrator is going through. Suzanne Collins does this in The Hunger Games, and Robin Bailey does a great job with this in Shadowdance.

Here’s an example of how FP can be effective at keeping the narrator from being disengaged.

WATCH:
I walked sheepishly into the bedroom. The violets that he’d brought me blossomed out of the vase on the cedar wood dresser. He stared at me, and the moonlight unveiled itself through the window behind him. My heart thudded inside my chest, and I almost had to remind myself to breathe.

Remember that whenever you write in FP, SETTING is still essential. Use the setting to speak for your characters.

Let’s continue with the same scene, but we are going to portray the guy’s emotion from the narrator’s POV.

WATCH:
But there was something about his stare that seemed to make those innocent flowers wilt in submission. The light felt more intrusive, and the sinister grin that pasted itself on his face made me shutter from the inside out. The pace of my heart picked up as a thread of panic slithered up calves and into my spine. The flowers, the vase, the room…it was all a setup. What had I walked into?

See how the same environment has become a decrepit harbinger that something bad is about to happen. These types of queues, if not overdone, can actually pull in all the emotion from the other characters that you need.

This is typically my writing style. Some people do not like to use setting as the “twelfth” man, and that’s fine. There are other ways to portray the same kind of trepidation, but the focus has to be more on the way that the character is standing or the feeling that your narrator is getting. I also incorporate this style into my writing as well.

I hope this insight into FP helps with your writing. Thanks for stopping by.

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14 thoughts on “WRITTEN ON YOUR FACE

    1. William Stadler Post author

      I agree. FP is tough. There are so many limitations — especially when you can see the world in your head, but you know that your character can’t.

      And yeah, I have iPhone typos woes myself lol.

      Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      SP is probably the most challenging IMO, and it’s not as common. But once again, if done right, it can be amazing. Especially if it doesn’t turn out to be preachy. I’m interested to hear how your work is coming along.

      Reply
      1. Layla

        It’s coming along slowwwly, surely :p logged about 1200 words on it today.

        It’s set in a fictional world so it’s very visual and hence quite tiring to write :p

        Reply

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