~ By Veronica Forand
Imagine life in a fog, devoid of any emotion or color or conflict. Then turn on the Technicolor and imagine the most important person to you swept away by a disaster as you scream at the top of your lungs. One image is safe, the other is not. As writers, we want to take our readers on an adventure, whether through the highs and lows of a relationship or on a journey across the mountains into hostile territory. Readers need to experience all there is to experience in the story through the words on the page. Most novels today don’t include pictures or accompanying video, only words. Yet, joy, sorrow, pain, and contentment can’t be conjured up from a generic list of catchy phrases or visceral responses. They only appear when the writer digs deep and pulls the feelings evoked by the story into the heart of the reader. The best way to understand those emotions is to live through them and not hide from the scary parts of life.
Living in the moment is great as a personal mantra, a way of existing in a specific time and place that will never occur again. Most people can’t or won’t open themselves up to experiencing life’s highs and lows as they play out life in real time. Instead, they lock away feelings and insecurities behind busywork, television, computer surfing, or something else that engages the body without touching the soul. For a writer, however, ignoring life’s moments will freeze the emotions in her work. Good writing rips through the safe confines of day-to-day existence and forces the reader to confront all that is beautiful, sad, and horrific.
One of the best ways of storing negative emotion is receiving rejections. I try to accept rejection with grace and a hopeful outlook to the future, but I hurt nonetheless. My stomach aches, my eyes water, and I need some time alone. Sometimes within an hour of a negative event, I’m fine and I move on, but the emotion stays with me, tucked in a corner of my brain for use later when one of my characters feels a loss or a disappointment.
The other end of the spectrum shouldn’t be ignored either. When I receive a warm snuggle from my daughter, I breathe in her presence, smell her strawberry shampoo, and cherish her small hand tightening around my neck. Someday she’ll be gone from my house, but the memory remains. Don’t ignore those feelings. They are the life and soul of your story. Your characters need to laugh, cry, and fear so convincingly that the sensations wrap around your readers and place them in the middle of the journey. When they finally close the cover breathless and exhausted from an intense rollercoaster ride, they’ll immediately line up to do it all over again.
Veronica Forand is an attorney and an award-winning writer of romantic suspense, including the Golden Pen. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Kiss of Death, RWA’s chapter for romantic suspense and mystery, the RWA Contemporary Romance chapter, the Valley Forge Romance Writers, and the Washington Romance Writers. She’s lived in Boston, London, Paris, Geneva, and Washington, DC and is currently residing in Philadelphia. An avid traveler, she roams across five continents with her husband and kids in pursuit of skiing, scuba diving, and finding the perfect piece of chocolate.
Her novella, Tackled by the Girl Next Door, co-written with 2013 Golden Pen and Daphne winner, Susan Scott Shelley, will be published by The Wild Rose Press in Fall 2014.