This prompt comes from Will Dunne, who says, “If a scene is of any length, and if it has more than one beat, and if it rises above the level of monotony, the character will experience different emotions during the course of the scene.”
Thinking these emotions through ahead of time can help you write the scene. To that end, think of the scene you want to write and break it into segments: beginning, middle, and end.
Now, for each segment, ask the following questions:
- How does Character feel right now (in this segment)?
- Why does Character feel that way?
- What will Character do (now) as a result of feeling this way?
The character’s emotions should change from segment to segment, either by escalating or reversing.
If emotion’s not your strong suit (and I hear ya), try assigning anger, fear, and love to the segments. As Mr. Dunne says, “Some say that all human emotions can be viewed ultimately as a form of anger, fear, or love. Whether or not you agree with this theory psychologically, it provides a useful tool for exploring emotions dramatically.”
Here’s how Mr. Dunne suggests doing it: Character feels a primary emotion, one emotion in particular, during the scene. Is it anger, fear, or love? Does it occur in the beginning, middle, or end? Now ask the same questions of the secondary emotion. The leftover segment gets the leftover emotion.
You can also start with the segment: Decide which of the segments (beginning, middle, or end) is the scene’s most important segment. Now decide if, in that segment, Character is mostly fearful, angry, or coming from a place of love. Do the same for the second-most important segment. The third segment gets whatever emotion is left over.
Once you’ve assigned emotions to segments, remember to ask the next two question: why character feels that way and what they’ll do as a result of feeling that way.
Now, if you’re ready to write, go for it. If not, do the same thing for the scene’s antagonist.
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