Today, I thought I'd found some insight right under my nose on my bookshelf. While searching for something totally unrelated, I ran across a book titled, "Creating Character Emotions" by Ann Hood. I wasn't even aware it was there. Eagerly, I took it down, opened it and started skimming for info. Well, I found no great new insight. The book just reinforced what I already know. The best writing comes from showing the emotion, rather than telling the reader what the character is feeling. Duh.
Okay. That takes me right back to square one. Here's the problem. To "show" emotion in ways that don't involve some kind of visceral or other bodily reaction involves a fair amount of writing. We do it by reflecting the character's mood or feelings with their interaction with their surroundings. For instance, if someone is anxious, they might clutch a shredded tissue in their hand. They might glance at the clock every few seconds. They might walk to the window and look outside, clutch their arms against their waist, pace, etc. etc. You get the picture, but it takes quite a few words to convey all that. I have no problem with that...if the emotion I'm trying to show is sadness, regret, longing, anxiety or any of the many other things people feel when they have a quiet, reflective moment.
But what to do when the character is neck-deep in some kind of action, during the heat of anger, or terrified? There's where we resort to the racing pulses and pounding hearts because you simply can't halt long enough in the midst of an action scene to paint a picture of each emotion as it happens. Action scenes by their very nature scream for those visceral reactions, so I just don't see any solution.
I'm open to suggestions. Anybody know a different way to say, her heart pounded or his gut clenched? If so, I'd sure like to hear about it. ;o)