Monday, June 25, 2012

Patricia Yager Delagrange: Moon Over Alcatraz Blog Tour - Writing Emotion into your Story

Patricia Yager Delagrange is here today as part of her blog tour for her new emotion-filled book, Moon Over Alcatraz. Patricia is talking about channeling emotion into your characters. Feel free to ask questions.

Patricia will award a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.  

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:
Patricia Yager Delagrange:  Writing emotion into your stories

When I decided to write Moon Over Alcatraz I knew I’d have to dig really deep to be able to pull off the emotions Brandy would have been feeling after losing her baby.  My goal as a writer has always been to make the reader “feel” something while reading my novel - whether it’s laughter or happiness or sadness.  I think the worst thing would be to have someone read my book and feel nothing.  I want the reader to know my characters enough so that when something goes wrong, they’re rooting for that character to make it through the hard times.
But I was taking a subject - the death of a child at birth, which I hadn’t personally experienced.  But I am a mom.  I know what it’s like to love my children unconditionally, to feel so strongly about their lives that I would die for them if ever the chance came that there was a choice between them or me.  And I’d never felt that way about any human being until I became a mom.
So, I channelled those feelings toward Brandy and elicited them through her when she lost her baby at birth.  A big part of doing this, for me, is that I write as if I’m seeing it before me on a television screen.  What the characters are living through I’m watching in front of me and writing down what’s happening to them in their environment, as well as the thoughts and dialogue they’re experiencing in that environment.
I love dialogue.  When I wrote my first book it was almost totally mental meanderings of the character in first person point-of-view with very little dialogue.  But that was “telling”.  And we, as authors, are supposed to “show” the reader what’s going on and let the reader know what the characters are feeling by showing them through “action”.  So, I began to write dialogue to show what was going on “inside” the character.

If she was sad I didn’t write, “Brandy was sad”.  That’s boring.  I would write that she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep, she was losing weight because all she could think of was she’d lost her child and blamed herself for it.  When reading that, the reader knew Brandy was obviously suffering from depression.  I had to give the reader credit for being able to figure out Brandy was sad by her actions, by what she did and didn’t do.  I didn’t have to “tell” the reader she was bummed out.  They would already have figured that out IF I had done my job well and written it to show the reader what Brandy was feeling through her actions.
I try to put myself in the shoes of each character.  I will sit at my computer and feel what they must be feeling, move my face and eyes and mouth to know what to write when the characters are speaking.  I will stop and see them in front of me, in my mind’s eye, then write down their physical appearance and gestures.  Maybe this comes from my love of film.  My favorite thing to do is watch movies and perhaps that has helped me in my writing.  Maybe that’s why many books are turned into films because when I’m reading a good book, I see it in my mind as a movie anyway.  But that’s just me.


by Patricia Yager Delagrange
Following the death of their baby during a difficult birth, Brandy and Weston Chambers are grief-stricken and withdraw from each other, both seeking solace outside of their marriage; however, they vow to work through their painful disloyalty.  But when the man Brandy slept with moves back to their hometown, three lives are forever changed by his return..

Three days later we were standing at the edge of a hole in the ground at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward, the silence so thick, the insides of my ears buzzed like a distant swarm of angry bees.  Mr. Peralta and another gentleman stood off to the side while Weston and I held hands next to a tiny casket.
Weston had chosen a simple mahogany box with gold handles, a bouquet of white lilies graced the top of the small box.  I knelt down and laid a kiss on the smooth wood then wiped off the tears that had fallen on top.  Weston joined me, placing a single red rose in the middle of the lilies.
He helped me up and we stood side-by-side in silence, my guilt over her death like a stone in my empty belly.  I missed everything I’d dreamed would be happening right now, yearned for all that could have been.
Weston nodded at the man standing next to Mr. Peralta and our baby was slowly lowered into the gaping maw.  She reached the bottom, and a bird landed on the rich brown dirt piled next to the grave.  It pecked around, chirping a little song then flew off - as if saying goodbye.  My heart squeezed inside my chest.
I picked up a small handful of soft dirt.  “Goodbye, Christine,” I whispered, throwing it on top of her casket.
Weston wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me in close to his side.  Why her?  Why my baby?  Was this supposed to make sense?  And, if so, to whom?
We drove home in silence.  No words existed to express my grief.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I attended St. Mary’s College, studied my junior year at the University of Madrid, received my B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara then went on to get my Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University.  I live with my husband and two teenage children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with our two very large chocolate labs, Annabella and her son Jack.
My horse lives in the Oakland hills in a stall with a million dollar view.


Mary Preston said...

I understand what you mean about seeing the book as a movie in her head as you are reading. I play out stories as I read. I visualise them.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Patricia today!

Edith said...

I agree that the best way, for me anyway, to approach creating characters, is to try and see them with my mind's eye, to visualize exactly what they are doing, what they are wearing, how long their hair is, what their voice sounds like, etc etc. Then their actions and therefore the plot starts to emerge from those imaginings.

Catherine Lee said...

I'm not a mother, but I think that this novel would be painful to read. Such a tragedy can rip apart even the most loving couple.
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

Patricia said...

Marybelle and Edith - hi! I guess that's why novels are made into movies, eh? There are many of us who read books that way, I guess, and yet, for me, the books are always better.

Patricia said...

Hi Catherine! Yes, the book begins on a sad note, but it doesn't end that way, in case you were wondering.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Patti: I am a mother and have lost a child. Getting into the character's head and imagining her thoughts and actions would convey those emotions.

Of course, everyone reacts differently because we're people.

Anonymous said...

It's good to know you took "show, don't tell" to's not always easy to do! Congratulations on the release...


Patricia said...

Oh, Vicki, I had no idea. I'm sorry for your loss and have no words to express my sympathy.

Patricia said...

Hello Anonymous! It took a lot of work to be able to learn to "show" and not "tell", but well worth it for my writing and the reader.

MomJane said...

I have a daughter who can not visualize anything in her head. She doesn't like to read for that reason. However, she loves movies, so it is a good thing they make books into movies for people like her.

Patricia said...

Hey Mom Jane! You say your daughter cannot visualize anything in her head but she likes movies. Wow. What about reading to her? Is it the same result?

Janice Seagraves said...

Your excerpt brought tears to my eyes.


Patricia said...

When I have been asked in interviews what I hope to accomplish in my writing, it's always been my dream to make the reader "feel" an emotion. So, your comment means a lot to me.

Patricia said...

Thank you, Gale, for hosting me and my book on your site today.
Patricia Yager Delagrange

Penny Rader said...

Great post and excerpt. Emotion is vital for strong stories and the primary reason why I read & write romance. I'm a mom and a grandma. My granddaughter Lexi would've turned 6 this coming Friday. We lost her when she was not quite 5 1/2 months old.