Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


On Emotion as Inspiration

I have tucked away countless scribbled lists and files of ideas for stories. Many of the ideas may fade on those lists, but a few will inch onto the page and eventually into a novel. The key to what will spur me as a writer is in what first grabs me as a reader when I open a new book. And the answer to that is emotion. Something on the opening pages of a book (whether it be in the illustrations or the words) must pull me into the setting or force me to care about the main character.

Finding the emotional core of my own stories is sometimes like digging a splinter out of my finger. Usually there's a bigger hunk I can pull out first, but it breaks off just below the surface. Then it gets a little painful when I have to dig in deeper to get the rest. Just when I think I have it all, a niggling sensation tells me there's still a sliver of substance to be retrieved. Lighter emotions may float on the surface, but digging to the true core calls for layering--breaking through a barrier and crawling beneath the outer skin to yet another story. That is the process I went through in writing ROAD TO TATER HILL, involving many drafts and revisions until I found what I was truly vested in. It also required crawling into the lives and minds of more than just my protagonist in order to understand the actions, reactions, and responses of all my characters. I can't remember the name of the author who first said this, but I truly believe his words: "Until you have emotion [grief, anger, fear, guilt, humor, love, joy, satisfaction...] in your story, you are not writing with substance."

Setting, too, encompasses emotion and draws me to a scene. The photo above of me standing on the summit of Tater Hill (North Carolina) during my college years pulls me back to that particular place in time. Many years later (I won't say how many) I still feel the joy of standing on top of the world, the wind in my hair, and my life spread before me.


Lauren said...

I really appreciate your entry-- beautifully and powerfully said. The symbol of the splinter is so accurate and the quote so true. I am reading a book (adult) for my book club by a new author and I can barely get through it for its lack of emotional truth. This author needs to hear this quote.
Thank you- inspiring.

Edie Hemingway said...

Thank you, Lauren!

Christy said...

It's such a different process writing for older kids--the depth you go in your setting and details of your characters. I love how you liken finding the emotional core to digging out a splinter-ultimately so satisfying, but a painful process!

Stephanie said...

Love that picture, it's like a story in itself.

Diane Adams said...

Great picture! And great truth!