READING FOR EMOTION

I have a friend who lives a more cerebral life than most of us, I believe, and we’ve been agreeing to disagree about writing style. She prefers a pretty straightforward accounting of conversations and thought and incident. I like more emphasis on the emotional impact of conversation and thought and incident. Of course, this has nothing to do with what is correct and everything to do with personal preference.

Let’s look at two examples. Here’s what my friend would prefer:

When George was nine years old, he overheard his aunts talking on the back porch. “You can just look at him and see he doesn’t belong.”

“That black hair. Where does that come from?”

“And that nose. Nobody else in the family has a nose like that.”

Aunt Violet lowered her voice even further. “And the lips.”

And so George found out he was not an Emerson after all.

 Here’s what I would write:

 George’s life-long dread of being found out began when he was nine years old. He’d left the rowdy game of hide and seek with his cousins to go inside to the bathroom. As he came out, he bent over to retie his shoe just inside the kitchen door and heard Aunt Violet and Aunt Maggie talking on the back porch. If they hadn’t lowered their voices to a conspiratorial murmur, he’d have just tied his shoe and then burst out onto the porch to re-enter the game, but the smug tone caught his ear.

“You can just look at him and see he doesn’t belong.”

“That black hair. Where does that come from?”

“And that nose. Nobody else in the family has a nose like that.”

George touched a finger to his nose. They meant him. Because his cousins were all tow-heads with tiny button noses. He’d noticed that a while back, but he’d just thought they were cute and he maybe not so cute.

Aunt Violet lowered her voice even further. “And the lips.”

“Not an Emerson. Can’t be,” Aunt Maggie said.

George saw his parents through the screen door, Mama pouring lemonade, Dad tending the grill. Neither one of them had hair like his. Or a nose like his. Did they know? Did they know he wasn’t a real Emerson?

 The reason I like the second example better is that I’m more interested in the personal, the individual, the emotional. I need more visualization and more of the character’s internal responses to get the involvement I want as a reader. But that’s just me.

 

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About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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