Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed . ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Friday, December 6, 2013

The E-Factor

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. So when NBC aired a live stage production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic last night, I tuned in.

And tuned out 30 bored minutes later.

It wasn't that this was the stage version, not the movie version, and the stage version came before the movie version.

It wasn't that events and songs were out of the order I was familiar with, and the script didn't exactly follow what I practically know by heart. (The movie came out in 1965, when I was in high school, and I watched it on TV every year when it was aired, and then bought my own.)

That this wasn't The Sound of Music I know and love wasn't what made me tune out.

What made me change the station was that I wasn't, and was unable to become, emotionally involved. And being emotionally involved in the story is what makes it, for me, a good story. I tend to watch over and over and over the movies that make me cry (good tears) at the end. And I cry at the end every time.

I couldn't get emotionally involved because the characters, the actors, weren't emotionally involved. They were, well, acting, and it showed. They didn't seem, to me, to be investing their emotions, their very hearts and souls, into the roles they played. And so what resulted was a performance. A lackluster performance.

I call it "The E-Factor."

The E-Factor ("emotion factor") is important for our writing, too. Readers won't become emotionally involved in your story if you, as the author, weren't emotionally involved in it when you wrote it. Without the investment of your emotions, your story - plot, characters, dialogue - will fall flat. And even if you finish the manuscript and it gets published, readers will stop turning pages.

When I wrote Before I Die and The Heart Remembers, I invested so much emotion, I was exhausted at the end of a particularly emotional scene. I cried and laughed with my characters. I cared about them. A lot. So much that even now, years after I typed "The End," I still feel the emotion I experienced when I first wrote them. And I will not give up in my quest to have them published.

The E-Factor, or should I say the lack of it, was the problem with my current work-in-progress. For the longest time, I couldn't get a feel for Melody, the main character. Oh, I knew the facts about her, but I couldn't get into her heart and mind and soul. As a character, she fell flat. I didn't care about her, and I didn't want to write about her.

But I'd already invested 23,191 words when I began this year's NaNoWriMo. So I plunged forward, following the advice of many a writer: Just write. Write even when you don't feel like writing and the words won't come.

Somewhere along the way, Melody found her tune and came to life. I got so into the writing that when I wrote the scenes where she was extremely ill with the flu, I almost felt sick myself. For days.

I'm all better now.

If you're struggling with the E-Factor, don't despair. Keep writing. Keep probing. Keep plumbing the depths of your characters to find the spark that drives them, the spark that will make you care, and the spark that will make the reader care.

Keep writing,

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! You have nailed it. If you don't make that heart connection, you might as well hang it up.