My scene again, revised after using the Emotion Thesaurus

All right, as promised, here is the same scene I posted yesterday after working with the emotion thesaurus.  I also wanted to talk a little bit about what sort of thought process I went through, just in case it helps you analyze your own scenes.

Sunny (A) half-nodded as Doyle reeled off the dates of the construction, looking with bemusement at the stone colors demarcating the two sections.  If she looked very closely, the older stone was just a smidge darker.  ”Was the new stone from a different area?”

“No, Miss.  It came from the same quarry down by the lake.  The smoke from the fireplaces has colored it over the centuries.  The stone originally was, I believe, a very pale gray.”

“All of this was pale gray?”  (B) Sunny scratched the wall with her fingernail, but the soot didn’t budge.  Whoa.  Hundreds of years of smoke exposure could sure do a number on solid rock.    She hit her palm against the wall as something clicked into place in her mind.  No wonder all the art in the entire castle was so dingy!

(yada, yada, yada)

“Why do they call my room the Rose Room?” she asked,  then gnawed on her bottom lip, hoping Doyle would follow her lead on the change of subject. 

(C) The butler raised an eyebrow, then turned away from her, talking back over his shoulder as they continued down the hall to the next room.  “There are roses in the wallpaper and there always have been, as far back as we have records.”

Sunny shook her head at his retreating back, trying to recall the wallpaper in her room.   Those didn’t look like any roses she’d ever seen.  

Okay, so here is a brief description of what I did.

First I thought A LOT about what emotion Sunny was actually feeling as this conversation was unfolding.    First, (A) why was she nodding?  Well, the dates didn’t mean that much to her, plus it amused her that the butler could wax poetic about which wing was built when, and also the stone’s colors weren’t really that different, certainly not like Doyle is trying to say they are.   So, in looking at the list of options on the Bookshelf Muse, I decided I would try “Amusement.”  But those sorts of actions didn’t really describe was I was picturing.  She was slightly amused, but not in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, more like just a quiet resignation kind of way.    Finally, I settled on “Resignation,” and one of the actions in that list is “A head tilt and pause.”  I pictured that and thought maybe that could be described as a half-nod, so I went with that.

(B)  Originally, I had “surprised” here.  Which she was, since now the walls were practically coal black.  But again, when I looked up surprised in the thesaurus, those words didn’t really fit.  Those seemed like more of a “someone-jumped-out-at-me-from-a-dark-alley” surprise rather than a “Really?” low-key surprise.  So I looked again at the list of options and I tried “Doubt.”  Nope.  Finally I settled on “Confusion.”  When I looked down that list, I saw the suggestion of “Repeating back a question to the person,” and I thought that would work great.   So Sunny repeated his statement back to Doyle, this time framing it as a question and it worked perfectly.   In my mind, I could picture her disbelieving him, trying to convince herself that he wasn’t lying.  Then I just added a few more actions to reinforce that confusion.  She tried to scratch off the soot, only to find that it had sunk into the pores of the stone; then I stuck in that part about the art, because she has noticed in past parts of the book that most of the art was so dark you couldn’t really see the subjects of the painting, and this was of course the reason, so it made sense to bring it up here.

(C) Finally, I needed to work on Doyle’s reaction, rather than just having him “look at her strangely.”    But it’s important for the plot that he actually is a little condescending to her, so when I checked the options, I selected “Haughty/Smug/Superior,” but it couldn’t be too obvious.  There was the infamous raised eyebrow (which I tend to overuse but it seemed to work really well here) and then nothing else really worked, so I thought rather than have him look away quickly like she was insignificant, if he just turned away and then walked away from her, that would have a similar meaning, making her trot after him down the hall which is of course a classic sign that someone is inferior.

Well, this post is going on much too long, but hopefully it has been helpful. I wanted you to see that the original emotion I had “assigned to them” in the telling wasn’t actually what I wanted at all.  Doing this exercise forced me to really consider what they were feeling and how they would show it considering their stations in the household and what thoughts were running through Sunny’s head.

I’d love to see any rewrites you have done using this thesaurus, so feel free to link me or post short excerpts.     How will this help you in your writing?

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About susannahsharp

I'm pursuing a life-long dream of writing now, something I am really enjoying. My first book should be out by Christmas. I want to blog about all things Irish; offering some book reviews for romantic, not smutty, books; and also things pertaining to reading and writing.
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6 Responses to My scene again, revised after using the Emotion Thesaurus

  1. Barbara Bates says:

    I like the changes you made, they show the emotions much better. But…
    I have three suggestions. First I got rid of the bemusement changing it to facial expressions. Second, I added texture to reinforce the sooty feel of the stone. And third, I changed the “hoping” to “Trying”, because she seems to be that kind of person.
    These are just suggestions. Use them or not. Take care, Barbara
    *****
    Sunny half-nodded as Doyle reeled off the dates of the construction, soft lines appearing at the corners of her eyes and one corner of her mouth twitched. If she looked very closely at the stone colors demarcating the two sections, the older stone was just a smidge darker. ”Was the new stone from a different area?”
    “No, Miss. It came from the same quarry down by the lake. The smoke from the fireplaces has colored it over the centuries. The stone originally was, I believe, a very pale gray.”
    “All of this was pale gray?” Sunny scratched the wall with her fingernail, but the soot didn’t budge. Whoa. Hundreds of years of smoke exposure could sure do a number on solid rock. As her palm flattened against the wall, the chalky texture clicked something into place in her mind. No wonder all the art in the entire castle was so dingy!

    (yada, yada, yada)

    “Why do they call my room the Rose Room?” she asked, then gnawed on her bottom lip, trying to guide Doyle to change the subject.
    The butler raised an eyebrow, then turned away from her, talking back over his shoulder as they continued down the hall to the next room. “There are roses in the wallpaper and there always have been, as far back as we have records.”
    Sunny shook her head at his retreating back, trying to recall the wallpaper in her room. Those didn’t look like any roses she’d ever seen.
    ******

    • Thank you, Barbara. I do appreciate your suggestions. I particularly like how you described her facial expression at the top. The “trying” rather than hoping seems much more active and works better for what I was trying to accomplish with this scene. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  2. Jessa Slade says:

    I really like how you’ve incorporated more visceral reactions and used bigger, outwardly obvious gestures — like the butler walking away and Sunny testing the wall physically — to reveal inward emotion. The only problem with including the facial twitches is that, if we’re in her POV, it could feel a little odd to have her mentally remarking upon her own microexpressions.

    Can you believe we do this for fun?!?

    • Barbara Bates says:

      Jessa:

      You’re so right about the micro-expressions. This is one of the reasons I have to read and reread my writing — POV slips. Much as I like the creases at the edges of her eyes, maybe “she squinted” would work? Take care, Barbara

    • Yeah, it is actually more like torture somedays. But we all have to admit that when we’re flying– turning out a scene that’s just fun and exciting and you want to read it 100 times it’s so good, then it’s all worth it.

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