Here at MBT we talk about the protagonist’s happiest and saddest moments.
These to elements are used to shape the deeper layers of emotion between the characters. Expressly the hero and the heroine.
Often use of symbolism or metaphor can deepen the emotional layer of sharing a raw, tender moment between the stars of your story.
But wow, it’s really easy to miss these moments. To kind of skip over them and wrap it all up in prose summation.
Okay, what do I mean?
Let’s create a scenario.
Your hero is wealthy, grew up in a good family. His whole life he had nice things, a nice car, great vacations. He’s a star athlete and student.
Your heroine grew up poor, without, never had anything nice. The old beater car she purchased for $200 had to be pushed all over town by her friends because the starter didn’t work right. She never went anywhere for vacation but a night at the country fair. She’s pretty, a good student but never ever did anything out of the ordinary.
Unbeknownst to the hero, he invites the heroine to go with him to rock climbing. She’s always wanted to but wow, she’s never hiked a hill let alone climbed the side of a mountain.
As they prepare, she tells him about her ratty old beater car, her ratty old life. How she wanted to go on a mission trip to Guatemala but her mother, full of fear, refused to let her go.
So our heroine became fearful too. She chose the safe course of life.
This moment speaks to how she sees herself — low rent, a burden, stranded, locked, fearful.
The hero on the other hand, tells how his parents surprised him with a mountain climbing trip with his best friends. He was a hit of all his buddies. He drove the coolest car. He even rescued a little girl and was the town hero.
This moment speaks of how he sees himself — loved, successful, fun, popular, brave.
When he asks her to go on an adventure with him, their two worlds collide.
Facing the side of the mountain reminds her she will never be one of “those people.”
On the other hand, it reminds him of his success and dreams. He’s unaware of how she feels.
As he urges her to climb, the residual of her raw emotions from confessing her beater-life story rise to the surface.
She can’t fit into his world. They are not “meant to be.” Besides, she resented kids like him in high school — the privilege and the pretty.
The merging of their stories and the symbolism of the mountain side is a ripe place to layer the emotions of the story.
But all to often we short cut to a summation.
“John urged her. She could do it. So she climbed a rock. Afterwards they went for burgers and she was exhilarated.”
Wait! Nooo! Don’t leave the reader hanging.
Go there. Dig into the symbols and the emotion.
Is she really exhilarated? How does she feel? How does this impact her?
Will anything ever be “right” for our heroine? Did she find her inner courage? Conquer her fears.
Will the hero be the one to bring healing to her?
What of the hero? Can he tune in and see she’s struggling?
What if he turns to her and sees the sad glint in her eye?
“Hey, what’s wrong? We don’t have to do this?”
“No, it’s okay. I just never… Well.. hey, it’s just a mountain, right?”
“You never what? Tell me.”
“John look at us. We don’t belong together. I never had anything nice in my life. I’ve never done anything courageous in my life” Accept call 9-1-1 when her mother passed out from to much Vodka after Daddy left. But they never talked about that.
“Doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way, Jane.”
“Doesn’t mean it won’t.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying you climb the rock and I’ll just go on home.”
See? We tapped into her insecurity.
Now, the conversation could go any number of ways, but use the moment of buying a car to deepen the emotion, to draw out even more rawness.
Jane could’ve walked among the cars feeling, “This could be me someday. Life is full of potential. I can do it.”
What if your hero never had a birthday party and the heroine plans one for him.
Don’t summarize, “And he had a good time, surprisingly.”
No! Make him ponder all the birthdays where no one said happy birthday. Or he got a card with no present and a day old bakery cake.
What about the time he wanted to go to a friend’s sleep over on his birthday but his mom lost her temper over something stupid and he didn’t get to go.
And his friend’s parents were taking them to Star Wars!
Am I making sense?
Don’t let the symbolism go
How can you recognize the symbol? Easy…
1. If an external situation taps an internal conflict or emotion, use the external to reflect the internal.
2. Look for physical things to reflect emotions. In Dining With Joy I used food to reflect community and love.
3. When you develop the happiest and saddest moments of the past for your character, try to create a corresponding symbol to use in a scene. You don’t have to use all of them, but try to h highlight the most poignant.
4. Trust your gut.
5. Try not to summarize action and/or emotion after your characters have shared a heart to heart. Even if there’s no symbolism, take time to layer in emotional, internal thought.
Happy Writing.Read the Rest