Inside Your Character — Mind and Emotion

Inside Your Character — Mind and Emotion


Ask the Author: How do you get past writer’s block? Crystal Fretz

Aaron: It really depends on the type of block. We’ve talked about this before, even blogged about it. If I’m stuck for a story idea, I tend to increase my artistic input (movies, books, museums, art, etc.). If I don’t know where to go next for my story, I tend to bounce ideas off some close friends. I’ll also do some outlining, finding new ways to take the story. Sometimes I’ll create a soundtrack for mood. Sometimes I’ll just write crummy chapters until I figure out where it is I want to take the story.

Al: Sometimes it’s not a block as much as it is weariness or fear. Other times, it’s just hard to focus. If I can, I skip ahead in the story and come back to the problem area later. There have been times when I just brainstorm by writing down as many possible solutions as I can. I know that almost all of them will be useless or even silly, but that doesn’t matter. A miner has to move a lot of dirt to find a diamond (Al’s Axiom #26), so it is with writing. Writing is the best cure for writer’s block, unless the writer is just overworked, in which case, a nap is the best way to overcome writer’s block. Write in a different place. Read more. Watch a few movies. For others this would be avoidance; for writers it is a proven technique.

CHARACTERS: Mind and Emotion

There are several aspects to character development which we will look at over the next few weeks. This week, we look at the mental and emotional makeup of our characters.

AL: I like to find the human creature into four elements: mind, body, emotion, and spirit. These overlap of course but sometimes it is easier to seem them as independent of others.

  • Mind: seat of thought, reason, hopes, dreams, and fears.
  • Body: the physical component and the conduit of emotion (all emotion is experienced physically.
  • Emotion: the word means to “be moved within.” Emotion is usually a response (good or bad) to something.
  • Spirit: I believe everyone has a spiritual component, even died-in-the-wool atheist. I’m not talking about church here; I’m talking about human nature to believe or to disbelieve.


  • Definition of personality: combinations of characteristics that make an individual unique. This applies to the characters in our books.
  • Definition of a person: Three components–intellect (I think), emotion (I feel), will/volition (I act). All major characters must have these three things.
  • Personality Types (
    • Internal v. External
    • Thinking v. Feeling
    • Planning v. Spontaneous
    • Sometimes it is good to let your characters surprise you.
  • Mental stability
    • Depressed?
    • Stalwart and stoic?
    • Optimistic?


  • Emotion is a physical reaction/sensation to an outside stimulus.
  • Different stimulus provoke different emotions.
  • Think of the physical sensations of anger, hate, love, wonder, etc.
    • What does anger feel like? What does it look like (remember you have to describe it for you reader)?
    • What does love look like? Feel like?
    • How about worry?
    • Depression?
  • Don’t over do it. Avoid schmaltz (excessive sentimentality)
  • Show, don’t tell.
    • Showing:  His head throbbed, his neck tightened like spring steel, his hands clenched so hard it seemed his knuckles would burst through his skin, his stomach turned to a vat of acid. “How could the Chargers think of moving from San Diego?”
    • Telling: The news that the San Diego Chargers might move away made Al angry.
  • Be realistic in your prose. No soap opera emotion dialogue. “Oh dear, dear, why won’t Bill acknowledge the son he doesn’t know he has? Why won’t he open up to me? We’ve been driving for ten minutes.” Avoid melodrama.
  • If you’re writing an emotional scene and you are not moved by it, then you’re probably doing it wrong. [Illustration: I know a couple of authors who have this problem. Emotion in their books is something you tack on like a Christmas ornament. If it isn’t felt in the writer, then it won’t be felt by the reader. Make yourself laugh; make yourself cry; but by all means make yourself feel.

Avoid cliches like the plague.

2 thoughts on “Inside Your Character — Mind and Emotion”

  • FYI The audio on Stitcher and iTunes is different content to the video clip. I think its the material from the previous time management show.

    • Thanks for the heads up on this. I’ll have to look into it. Not sure why it’s pulling a different audio. 🙁

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