What I'm reading: The Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly.
More tidbits from Alicia Rasley's workshop.
A character's defenses will fall apart as you get farther into the book, especially regarding falling in love. After all, most romances begin with two characters who definitely are NOT in love at the beginning.
She stressed choosing the right POV for scenes, and as an exercise had us write a scene where a character walks across the room and puts a hand on the doorknob. We did it first in 3rd person, and then in 1st. First person, for most of us, allowed us to be much deeper into the character (although there's the fact that we already knew the basic situation after writing it the first time, plus she gave us a little longer for the second part).
Emotion drives characters to wanting what they want, and getting what they get.
Fiction should be equal to, not true. A story should become itself in the reading. Fiction is metaphor. And, she reminded us, let the reader figure stuff out. Don't tell everything.
She also spent some time on dealing with eliciting emotion in readers.
Some suggestions and examples:
Where to set the scene – coming home after Mom's funeral might have more impact than a 'tear jerker' at the cemetery.
Don't rush to the 'punch line.'
Create opposition in other characters so sympathy comes from the reader (but don't make the protagonist just a victim, which would lead to pity, not empathy.)
Use props-the character can search the closet for a special toy for a hospitalized child.
Try taking all the emotion-laden words out of the scene to see if the emotion is still there.
Speaking is tough in emotionally charged situations – watch the 'spilling of guts.'
Have the character try NOT to feel.
Break some punctuation and grammar rules (but know them first) to convey emotion.
Use the emotional event as the scene setting. The emotion is the background. Showing the aftermath of someone's death (funeral planning, donating clothes to charity) can be more emotion packed than the deathbed scene.
Show emotion in character interactions – conversations that hedge the topic, veer off, focus the emotion on the other character. Character might talk about what a survivor will do rather than focus on his impeding death, etc.
Steps back a little and keeps some distance. Self pity doesn't work. "If the character cries, the reader doesn't have to."