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iwannabepublished
02-04-2011, 09:40 PM
While in a narrative from one character's POV, how far can you go in describing what you see in another character's emotional response?

I'm not a big fan of the TV show 'Lie To Me', but I realize at least some extreme emotional responses will be obvious to anyone and therefore acceptable to include. Certainly another character's happiness or sorry can be reported in a narrative. Physical reactions, like a nod of agreement, would also be acceptable. Clearly, the character from whose POV the narrative is coming from can't get into another character's head. But would something like the following line be going to far?

Even with his back turned, Randy could sense Ellen's rage.

scarletpeaches
02-04-2011, 09:42 PM
You're filtering, and telling us about the rage, not showing it.

Ambri
02-04-2011, 10:03 PM
Building on what Scarlet said, it might be better to show Ellen's rage in a way Randy can see. Is she trembling with supressed fury? Did her eyes narrow into slits? Has her voice changed? For some helpful examples of showing emotions, you might google "emotion thesaurus".

iwannabepublished
02-04-2011, 10:10 PM
You're filtering, and telling us about the rage, not showing it.

Okay, that was a very bad example.

How about this -

Instead of replying to Randy's response, Ellen's eye's narrowed to little more than slits. She didn't have to say a word to shut him up. He remembered seeing that look of anger a lot in the last three days.

This may not be the best example of the question I'm asking since it involves an easily visible physical response. However, I think it gets to my question of reading someone's emotions and not sounding like you're in their head.

That's funny Ambri, we must have been posting at the same time.

I was also going to add another example.

They were standing so close, Randy could feel the heat of her anger and quickly shut up.

scarletpeaches
02-04-2011, 10:12 PM
There's absolutely nothing wrong with describing what the point-of-view character sees, hears, feels and so on - as long as you don't say something like, "A disgusted Ellen threw up a little bit in her mouth." (Bad example, but bear with me). The POV character doesn't know the other is disgusted, nor that they threw up a little bit in her mouth; it's head-jumping.

dangerousbill
02-04-2011, 10:16 PM
Even with his back turned, Randy could sense Ellen's rage.


Although you can often sense another's emotions, it doesn't help your reader. What you've written is okay by itself, but a whole story where no physical manifestations of emotion are described would be dry indeed. What can Randy see and hear? Her total silence and immobility? Perhaps, and if he knows her, he'd know what that means.

Here's something of mine as an example:

Her eyes were wet, her cheeks flushed, and a fine sweat glistened on her upper lip. I strode into the bedroom, knowing she would follow.

Not exactly Hemingway or Updike, but you get the idea.

CaroGirl
02-04-2011, 10:18 PM
They were standing so close, Randy could feel the heat of her anger and quickly shut up.
I'll object to the construction "he could feel". Why not "he felt"? Or, "The heat of her anger quickly shut him up". Or even, "Her anger quickly shut him up." We know he senses it. You're not head-hopping by saying this.

dangerousbill
02-04-2011, 10:20 PM
He remembered seeing that look of anger a lot in the last three days.


The [of anger] part is probably superfluous.

scarletpeaches
02-04-2011, 10:24 PM
I'll object to the construction "he could feel". Why not "he felt"? Or, "The heat of her anger quickly shut him up". Or even, "Her anger quickly shut him up." We know he senses it. You're not head-hopping by saying this.Because it's still filtering.

CaroGirl
02-04-2011, 10:26 PM
Because it's still filtering.
Yes. Marginally better than "he could feel" but still filtering. That's why the later suggestions are incrementally better.

iwannabepublished
02-04-2011, 10:26 PM
I'll object to the construction "he could feel". Why not "he felt"? Or, "The heat of her anger quickly shut him up". Or even, "Her anger quickly shut him up." We know he senses it. You're not head-hopping by saying this.

It seems one walks a fine line when in one character's POV and attempting to explain another person's emotional reaction by reading it in facial changes or other body language.

1. Can't get in the other character's head
2. Don't tell - show

I think, in your third example, something else would have to be said. How does the reader know she's angry?

CaroGirl
02-04-2011, 10:27 PM
I think, in your third example, something else would have to be said. How does the reader know she's angry?
Show it. You have to show it. In the lead up, she needs to shout or throw something. Stamp her foot or put on a smoldering moue.

quickWit
02-04-2011, 10:32 PM
Show it. You have to show it.

Pfft! And I get thrown out of the Victoria's Secret for saying the very same thing! Where's the justice, huh? Where?

iwannabepublished
02-05-2011, 07:47 AM
Building on what Scarlet said, it might be better to show Ellen's rage in a way Randy can see. Is she trembling with supressed fury? Did her eyes narrow into slits? Has her voice changed? For some helpful examples of showing emotions, you might google "emotion thesaurus".

At first, I thought this might me a joke.

Just to be on the safe side, I did Google "emotional thesaurus" I got a hit on -

http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/

What a Great site! Thanks for the tip.

kaitie
02-05-2011, 09:18 AM
It seems one walks a fine line when in one character's POV and attempting to explain another person's emotional reaction by reading it in facial changes or other body language.

1. Can't get in the other character's head
2. Don't tell - show

I think, in your third example, something else would have to be said. How does the reader know she's angry?

I'm of the opinion that you should never doubt your reader's ability to understand even subtle clues. I'd leave off the word "anger" in general because if it's done well enough, you won't even need it. What a person says, how they say it, body language, anything like that can tip off the reader so they know what's going on.

Just for kicks, go pick out your favorite book and read through a couple of chapters. Take notes as you go on what you think the characters are feeling, and then go back and try to decide what it was that gave you that impression. As readers, we pick up on clues without even being aware of them.