Can someone who doesn’t feel emotions strongly be a writer?

Why do we think writing requires feeling strong emotions? Well, I’m not sure there has to be a lot of strong emotion, per se. But what does emotion do for a story? When a reader isn’t let in on a character’s feeling life—their reactions to occurrences, their inner dialog—then the character becomes one dimensional, a cardboard cutout. The reader will find it hard to slip into the story and live it through the character’s thoughts. That’s not a very satisfying experience.

I’m not talking about “emotional writing,” where the plot is a roller-coaster of extreme anxiety, manic joy, then tragic melancholy.

If you think about it, how does conflict really build? We only care about conflict because it is deeply disturbing to the MC. We want happiness for that character, eventually—fulfillment, growth, relief from stress or disappointment. And how do we come to care what that character experiences? Through their feelings. It’s a tricky blend that we like; ability to laugh at oneself, not too much wallowing or blaming, some empathy. Not a paragon of virtue, certainly. Just a healthy human mix, with foibles and strengths, like we all have.

Can a person invent emotion for their characters that they never feel themselves? I would venture to guess that, as writers search for convincing and appropriate emotions for their characters, they are, in fact, getting in touch with buried emotions. They may not have them consciously, but I imagine writing actually helps them live their emotional life, somewhere down deep. Writing is a reflective act. As writers comb back over the words they’ve written (hopefully!), they search for truth, asking themselves, does it ring true for that character? And in that process, experience is mirrored on some level, some plane, in the self. I doubt if the majority of our favorite authors are models of emotional expression in their personal lives. In fact, some may depend on writing for much of their felt experience. That still works.


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