Does It Feel Like?
Michael E. Norman
Issue # 3: 04/01/01
A Theory of Alternate History
writers, we try to make the reader feel the emotions in the words we
write. However, how can a reader feel the chaos of battle or the
adrenaline of crisis if we ourselves have never felt it? As a firefighter,
I know just how chaotic a crisis situation can be, and as a soldier I have
a good understanding of the dangers of combat.
have all read, especially in fantasy and science fiction, detailed scenes
of warfare and combat. How do we give the reader a feel for the chaos
inherent to combat and crisis?
we have to remember just what happens in these situations. Let's take a
battle for instance. Even the best-laid battle plans go to hell when the
fighting actually starts. Murphy's Law goes haywire and the battle never
happens just as it was planned.
break and run, chaos rules, and unforeseen events just take over. The
trick is to give the reader that feeling of chaos, but at the same time,
give the scene structure so he can follow it.
a crisis situation, such as fighting fires, the same holds true. No two
emergency situations are ever the same, even if the basics are the same.
What will the fire do? Is the victim stable enough this time to pull from
the car? Is anyone in the burning house, or is it clear? These are just a
few questions we ask ourselves during a crisis.
combat, we ask questions like: Is the person beside me protecting my
blindspot? Is the enemy breaking through the flank? Are there snipers out
there waiting for a clear shot?
we have to figure out just what happens to the main character in these
situations. They will experience the adrenaline rush, dry mouth, quick
breathing, and the constant worry that the next thing they do could cause
death or injury to someone else.
is difficult to put these feelings on paper when you have not faced the
possible death of the victim, or yourself in real life. So how do we write
these scenes convincingly?
tell you how it works for me. Remember, even the most experienced veteran
feels fear in combat. The difference between a veteran and someone who is
going through his first battle or crisis is how he deals with it.
As I write the scene, I try to think of a time when I was truly scared. Think about standing up to a bully when you were younger, or asking a girl or guy out that you liked. What about standing in front of a group of people for the first time and giving a speech or a class? Immerse yourself in that feeling.
there a metallic taste in
your mouth? Your pulse pounding? Your hands shaking from the adrenaline
and your breathing quickening? A million things running through your mind
that could go wrong? That twisting feeling in your gut, and the sudden
urge to relieve yourself?
you think about these things, and experience them as you're writing the
scene, the reader will feel them with you. As writers, we write what we
feel. Even our fiction has elements of truth about ourselves, and we give
pieces of ourselves to the reader every time we write. Let them taste fear
in their mouth and feel their pulses quicken. They will not feel it as
strongly as you do, but the sensation will be there, and the reader will
experience some of the emotions you have.
I know that thinking of something that frightens you is not always
comfortable, but I have found that it helps me to deal with my fears.
After writing the scene, I look at what I wrote and think: "Well if
he can get through it, so can I." After all, aren't our main
characters just a part of ourselves? You may deal with it a little
differently, but in essence, you may sit back and say; "My problem
does not seem so bad anymore."
trick is to show the reader what you are feeling, and so many times, we muddle
through a scene and try to think
of what it is like. However, we can be much more convincing to the reader
if we actually feel what we write.
So sit down and think of your greatest fear and then write about it. Then sit back and be satisfied that not only did you write a great scene, but that when it comes down to it, fear is nothing more than a feeling that can be controlled and conquered. Happy writing.
versions of Vision