In the latest piece I showed to my critique group, I was particularly concerned that a section was melodramatic. Not only over the top emotion, but over the top of only one emotion. One of my critique partners said that on one hand, it didn’t seem melodramatic, but on the other hand, much of the sadness seemed told, and that I should try to show it.
This led to a moment of “I have no idea what to do!” The character experiencing sadness is the POV character. It is written in close 3rd person, which means that the POV is intimately inside of the character’s head. And I have no idea how to show that character’s sadness. The only thing that comes to mind would be to employ an elaborate analogy or simile. It is not difficult to show other characters being sad (or other emotion), because the POV character has the benefit of observing their body language.
But showing one’s own sadness? I have only my experience to draw from, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly in tune or capable of processing and speaking articulately about emotions, much less my own. If I’m really sad, it hurts, literally and figuratively. If I’m desperately sad, I’ll often use physical pain to deal with the emotional pain. All I know is that I’m sad, and I need it to stop. I want to sleep. I want to be unconscious or unaware of the sadness. And those are literally the thoughts that go through my head. I cry, my torso is tense, and if I’m at that point, some part (unseen to observers) on my body probably feels physical pain I deliver, and that physical pain is wonderful and soothing.
So that’s all I’ve got. How do I show a POV character feeling sad?
Being the child of the net generation, I turn to Google. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that addressed my specific issue. However, I did find a nice resource for showing emotion. These shows, however, I would consider entirely appropriate for non-POV characters, and partially appropriate for POV characters. Sadness… a couple of ideas were helpful. Rapid swallowing, constricting throat and chest muscles (probably the most used I’ve seen in writing), falling face.
Perhaps I need to step back the POV and take it a little farther out of the head of the character? Something to work on in the future.
The resource for emotion is from a blog back in 2009 by Jacqui Murary. She splits up emotional shows alphabetically into three entries: