Sep 1, 2008

The Logic of Emotion

Valerie Ipson is Guest Blogging for Joyce DiPastena today. She will join us as a regular member of the Blog Team on September 9th.

By Valerie Ipson

Thank you, Joyce, for the opportunity to substitute blog here on ANWA Founders and Friends! As it turns out, I have recently been selected to fill an every-other-Tuesday spot with the group, so this will be the first post of many to come.

I taught a lesson last week in our ANWA chapter meeting called The Logic of Emotion. Okay, so I really didn’t have a great title like that for my lesson, but the things I taught were taken from an article with that name by Eric M. Witchey. It appeared in Writer’s Digest magazine in July 2005. (Did you know you can check out past issues of this magazine from the library—very cool!) Mr. Witchey wrote about character-driven novels and the fact that “they sell faster and haunt the reader longer.” He says, “It’s because you’ve engaged the reader in the emotional reality of your characters.” He goes onto explain, and I did, as well, in my lesson, that characters need an emotional foundation for their motivations, this emotion drives decisions, the decisions lead to actions and the actions create conflicts—or new situations, but not always something negative. When these are resolved, the character enters a new emotional state—and from there makes new decisions…and the process repeats itself.

We discussed how employing this pattern in our stories would serve to pull our reader along to the end just so they could find out what the character does or what happens to them. They will be emotionally connected to the character. Well, as often happens when you get a group of like-minded sisters together, the lesson took a magical turn (not magical as in “magic,” but as in “sweet” and “goose-bumpy”) as one sister related this same pattern to our spiritual lives. Go back and reread the pattern…isn’t this a pattern for reality? We have an emotion, it drives us to decide something, then to act on that decision, then a situation or conflict arises, then we make it through and then experience a new emotion. Knowing this pattern, then, will serve us as we realize that conflicts (trials, challenges) are only a part of the whole. We can resolve them, and by doing so will go on to new emotional states and new decisions and new action in our lives.


  1. This is a great lesson for all of us. I think it is true about our own lives as well. Great first post and best of luck on all your upcoming writings.

  2. Thank you for the reiteration of your lesson. It's a good review of good writing. I also appreciate being reminded that there are lessons for our ANWA chapter meetings in the gazillion back issues of Writers Digest I have stuffed in the closet. That's golden! Rene

  3. now I feel very silly. Here I was moping about the fact that I really wanted to purchase that magazine...and didn't even think about the library. Our closest local branches leave a bit to be desired. Everything I want to read is usually spoken for months in advance and I end up going to the bookstore anyway...or finding a lovely friend who has one. Thanks for the great lesson and reminder. I think I'll go to the library this week!!!!

  4. So very true Valerie. The characters are most important pieces to any fantasy novel. If you don't like the characters, you just won't like the story no matter how interesting it is. And oftentimes a great character will save a lousy plot line.

  5. I attended one of his workshops at the Willamette writer's conference. He really impressed me and I agree that having a character that you are rooting for and can relate to is an important element in good writing.

  6. Welcome, Valerie ~
    Nice post and great observation of how that relates to our own lives.
    I look forward to reading your future posts.

  7. Namaste.

    Eric M. Witchey


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