How Important Are Emotions When Driving A Character?

How important are emotions in driving a character?

(This is something I also posted on the Happy Authors Guild blog. Check it out, there are lots of fabulous posts from many different writers)
I’ve been mulling this over this past week and had a few thoughts. Feel free to disagree, this is just what was going through my head:)
There are many driving forces behind a character’s behaviour. Needs. Wants. Desires. Revenge. Behind these, either tagging along like cans tied to a newlyweds car or compressing a person until they feel like they will explode, are emotions.

The first three (needs, wants, desires) are often stepping stones into the depth of emotion a person will attach to one of these. For example, the desire to share your life with someone can morph into a want, which then changes to a need. The initial desire comes with the feeling that it would be nice, pleasant, normal. If the desire goes unfulfilled, then the emotions deepen. If the ‘want’ goes unfulfilled, emotions go deeper, and often start to deceive us. A character can think, ‘Why am I the only one not married? Why am I the only one struggling financially?’ It’s easy to slip into thoughts that slowly lead down into a maelstrom of self-pity, anger, depression and fear. (At this point, can I just clarify that not everyone is like this, but it can help to see where a character can go emotionally due to an unfulfilled need.)

Need is often associated with desperation and fear. If I don’t have shelter I may die of cold. If I don’t have enough to eat I will starve. If I don’t find someone to love me I will stay alone. Suffer alone. Age alone. Die alone. If a person cannot meet their own needs, then helplessness, hopelessness and depression can follow.

Want (when not a ‘need’) can be associated with selfishness and inconsideration of others, an assumption that others don’t matter. Some people want to be rich, and will do anything to achieve that – even if it means stamping others down.

Desires can take many forms. In romance novels, sexual desires can often be the main driving force (at first) behind a character. In a thriller, the detective will have the desire to catch a thief or a murderer. When this desire is unfulfilled, then it becomes a want, a need. The passion behind increases, the driving force impels the character to perhaps take more risks.

So emotions drive us in many ways.

Consider yourself. When you wake up in the morning how do you feel? Tired? Buzzing? Still upset at something someone said yesterday? Still slightly drunk???

I know when I wake up tired it colours my whole day a darker shade of whatever hue I feel. Our emotions and reactions colour the way we think and act, likewise with our characters. If some trauma happened when a character was young, that will affect almost everything about them. Even if they shut it out, the fact that they have shut down a part of them means a part of them is missing, regardless how broken up that part is. When does a character learn fear? Love? Consequences of various actions?

In the current medieval novel I am working on, I have a sixteen year old girl who had a traumatic experience when she was about 9. She has shut this out, yet occasionally has nightmares. I have struggled with her character because it isn’t rounded. Part of her is hidden from me, and until she comes to terms with what happened and is willing to remember, it will stay hidden. She has fears, and anxieties which come from this hidden place and these affect her, yet her emotions are dampened because she pushes them down. So it has been difficult to write from her pov, and the novel has turned into one more about her mother while Annie remembers. When she has remembered, she will be much rounder; I will be better able to write her because I know where she is coming from.

Do you know what your characters are feeling in every scene? Do you ‘soul-hop’? I find if I know what a character is feeling, then the dialogue and actions flow easily and naturally. If I don’t know, then everything feels stilted and awkward.

Experiences affect characters differently. One might shrug off an insult, another might take a swing. Another might bear a grudge and nurse it until the tree of bitterness bears the fruit of hatred. Yet all will then adjust their behaviour accordingly. The one who shrugs the insult off may well avoid that person. The one who takes a swing might end up in jail; the one who nurses a grudge may end up sinking into paranoia. A seemingly insignificant detail can end up having pond-wide ripples, which is why, for me, it’s so important knowing how they feel. If I can identify with my own characters, then I have the hope readers will, too.


What do you think? How important are emotions in driving your characters? What do your characters first desire, then want, then need? Is the carrot that is being dangled before them always out of reach, or can they take a bite every now and then, thus increasing the fervency with which they seek more?


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Writers – What Kind Of Pants Do You Wear?

I have always been a pantser.

My first novel, The Traitor’s Legacy, was pantsed and my second is too. However, it takes me an inordinate amount of time to actually get a novel written, and I have started to wonder if this is because I write by the seat of my pants. I mean, can I keep blaming my two lively boys and the housework and my Proofreading course? (Yes, of course I can, but there must be something else since I use all of these to procrastinate). Sometimes it takes a while for the characters to tell me what they are doing. Sometimes, horrors, I get stuck, or my characters do nothing for a while, and I wonder if plotters suffer similar issues.

If I plotted a novel, then I could write a scene a day. I may even write a novel in 45 days a la Nora Roberts. I could write five or six novels a year! Except, I know I would get half way through a scene and yawn with boredom,since I know what’s coming next. With pantsing I never know, and that’s fun. But not knowing, can sometimes mean Not Ever Knowing. Ha. And this is where a combination of plotting and pantsing can have the edge. Plot the main arc, but let your characters lead in the scenes.

I hit on a brilliant way of kick-starting a novel again. Wake up in the middle of the night and let your imagination run wild with your characters. They will do things you never intended, or thought of. For example, my hero is going to put my heroine in a dungeon and leave her there. I would never have thought of this as the next step in months of plotting, yet this is the next logical step for the hero, and utterly in character.

So… what kind of pants do you wear? Control briefs (i.e. needing a lot of plotting aid)? Hipsters (i.e. some plotting, but the lace indicates a racy edge)? Tangas (flirt with the idea of having very little plotting)? Or, g-strings (i.e. very flimsy plotting control)?

I do normally have the flimsiest plotting control, but am toying with the idea of plotting out a series of short stories. This could be fun, I am thinking, because, well, how much lace would I like? How much elastic? How much sheer fabric?

I have always been a sworn g-string pantser but maybe, just maybe, those control briefs might be comfortable, might even (horrors) fit me better.


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IC Publishing Blog Tour

IC Publishing Blog Tour: Navigating the Writing Path.

First I must say ‘thank you very much’ to Carolyn Dennis Willingham for inviting me to participate in the IC Publishing Summer Blog Tour.

Carolyn is the author of ‘No Hill For A Stepper’, a wonderful coming of age story, and is currently writing a ‘must-read’ novel about a bordello, set in San Antonio in 1901. I am very much looking forward to having this on my bookshelves. Find out more and follow her blog.


My holiday workstation
My holiday workstation

Whilst writing this post I am sitting here, with a view on one of the most famous Tuscan towns – San Gimignano. Not bad, eh?


How do you start your (writing) projects?


14th century Tuscan Bassinet

One of the Wall Towers of San Gimignano
One of the Wall Towers of San Gimignano


This differs every time I begin a new project. Sometimes I have a line of dialogue that kicks things off, sometimes a picture – like those above –  will inspire me, or, more often than not, I will have a vague idea floating around my head which I do not write down. I like to give these ideas time to coalesce. Whether they will end up being a short story, a novel or a vignette, I don’t know until I begin to write. On a more practical note, I often begin my writing periods by reading. I like to ‘settle in’ to writing, get comfortable, as it were. As a Scribophile addict, I tend to surf the forums or write a critique before I begin my own writing. I find this helps me focus, and I can learn a great deal from critiquing other people’s work.

I find that my projects usually begin with a conflicted character and how their lives are impacted by other people in their lives, and then discover whether this character survives with their own morals intact, or whether they must adapt.


How do you continue your writing projects?

I am a pantser, and love the thrill of discovering characters and their arcs. My first draft can be dialogue and action heavy as I discover the story, then I have to go back and edit in the various reactions, descriptions, and anything else missing. I have a great group of friends who read everything I write and make very good suggestions, then often beta read for me.

If I get stuck whilst discovering the story, I find I need to go back to the beginning and edit through, this usually kicks me back into the zone. When I am in the zone, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around me, I can ignore it. This isn’t always a good thing when you have two young boys…


How do you finish your project?

Short stories and vignettes tend to be finished in one sitting otherwise I lose the momentum. I have finished my first medieval romance – The Traitor’s Legacy – and am in the process of querying whilst working on my second, currently titled ‘Annie’. Although I say ‘finished’, I continue to go back every so often and do another edit run through. It’s amazing what mistakes or awfulness I find after a month or so of ignoring it!
I don’t find it easy finishing projects. Sometimes it’s a matter of simply laying down the metaphorical pen and saying, ‘That’s it.’


Writing Challenge

Choose an object you love or hate in your home. Now choose an emotion, a time period (contemporary, medieval etc), a character (man, woman, child), a scene (wedding, funeral etc) and write a short story or vignette.

I’d love it if you would then post it on your blog and email me a link at:


Passing the Pen

I am thrilled to introduce two exciting writers:

Sue Seabury is the author of Miss Calculation, Miss Taken, and Miss Understanding

Sue likes traveling to exotic locations, good food and wine and excellent conversation. Since she doesn’t often get to enjoy any of those things, she invents them in her books. Find out more and connect with Sue at:


DL Hungerford. Born and raised in Southern California, DL Hungerford began writing right about the time you would expect.  She honed her skills through fanzines, epic letters, and minutes for various clubs.  She also wrote newsletter submissions for clubs, as well as movie and book reviews.
She loves the world of fiction, expecially Regency England, but hopes to explore other horizons as time permits.  She still lives in Southern California with her husband, a spoiled cat, and a flock of parrots, canaries, and button quail.  Follow one of her blogs here, and the other, here.






Connecting With Souls

Connecting With Souls

When was the last time you connected with somebody? I don’t mean by email or telephone, I mean looked into their eyes and connected on a much deeper level. I’m not talking about sexual intimacy either. I’m talking about friends. People whom you can connect with on a level that means conversation with them soars and dips and swoops like a flight of swallows. A conversation that to another person may sound stilted and broken, yet to those who connect, their very lifeblood is stirred. It is simply that so many words are not needed. Communication from one person’s soul to another means that not even language is a barrier.

When I met my friend Marianna, she spoke no English and I no Italian, yet we got on very well from the outset. How? We connected on a deeper level. We recognized something kindred in each other. In L.M. Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Anne always goes on about kindred spirits. When you find someone you can converse like that with, you feel alive, on the edge of something incredible, something strangely intimate. I have another friend who is from South Korea. We both live in the same village in Switzerland and struggle to connect with other Swiss women here. We pass the time of day with them but nothing deeper, but she and I connect. Although her mother tongue is Korean and she speaks French at home, she also speaks good English because she is a musician for Zurich Chamber Orchestra. We have a love of music in common, and a general bafflement about some aspects of Swiss culture, but there is a lot more besides that we haven’t begun to explore.

I think we, as people, continually seek such connections. We need them. It reaffirms our own aliveness, for want of a better word. Yet, in this day of mobile devices, we seek more and more of these connections online. Why? We are multi-faceted people. We crave intimacy on many levels, different aspects – facets of our personality, our very beings. Why when we crave intimacy in all these ways, do we isolate ourselves more?
We all have different interests, likes, opinions. Sometimes we can share only one aspect of ourselves with someone, sometimes many more. I think this is why some search continually for the ‘one’. Someone they can share most of themselves with, open up and reveal their multi-faceted personalities and characters knowing this other person will understand, will ‘get’ them.

I spend a lot of time on Scribophile, a website for writers. Since moving to Switzerland this has been a Godsend because I can talk to like-minded people here. Yet, for all the communication I do, and connections I think I make, how much do I actually know these people? Perhaps we prefer to keep our connections on a one-faceted basis because that means if the other facets of those people do not suit us, we can leave it. It doesn’t matter. In retreating more and more to these one dimensional relationships, are we damaging our cultures by refusing to accept those parts of others we would normally tolerate? Are we restricting our search for a partner just a little too much? ‘I like this part of you, but not this part.’

Maybe one day we will all live in separate houses, have many one-faceted relationships within reach of our fingertips so we can glean what we need from any one of them at any time. Think of ‘friends with benefits’. At what point does the importance of what that one person can do for us outweigh the importance of the friendship? Do these online relationships make us more selfish? So many sites out there are about self-promotion. It’s not so much what we can do for others, but what they can do for us. I’m not saying everyone is like this, but could it be a general trend?
When was the last time you connected, met someone’s eyes and saw their soul? Or are we afraid of what they might see in ours?




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A Housewifely Rant

A Housewifely Rant.
To the manufacturers of cleaning products: Please change the design of your bottles.

It seems that cleaning product bottles are shaped on purpose to fall over continuously when approaching a quarter full. Not only are the bottoms of these bottles subtly shaped to curve inwards, they also have an indented middle, thus leaving only a ridge to stand on.

May I (rather impolitely) suggest: V Shaped Bottles! Inverted, of course…

An inverted v-shaped bottle will not only NOT fall over, but will also pack well, i.e. tessellate wonderfully. Happy Housewife = Happy Hypermarket. Everybody wins.
I am now on the hunt for cleaning products whose bottles are shaped so they will not fall over when approaching empty. Any suggestions?

To the manufacturers of dishwashers: Please make sure your machines actually clean.

I have a brand new dishwasher (whose brand shall remain bland) that only cleans when the dishes are already clean. If I put something dirty in (heaven forfend), it comes out…wait for it…dirty! It would seem that this particular labour saving device does not work. I must rinse, scrub, and then load; then I must empty and dry the dishes afterwards. Hm. Not so much labour saving as labour intensifying. Is this a conspiracy? Let’s fool the housewives? (cue evil chuckle)


To the manufacturers of fridge-freezers: Please re-engineer them.

I am referring to the silly European design of having a small freezer box on top of a small fridge, not large American sized fridge-freezers. (Which are wonderful, I had one and miss it every day.)
I have a brand new in-built fridge-freezer that is economical! How wonderful, I thought, how clever, to bring freezing air down from the freezer into the fridge, thereby cooling without using extra energy! So now, of course, I have one and a half freezers. Everything I place towards the back of my fridge freezes! Amazing! And it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I must take out my vegetable box every day and wipe out the damp and place it the other way around to avoid freezing. Noooo, not at all. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that this paragon of modern design and economy ices up – both in the freezer and at the back of the fridge. Nope. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, this penchant for small fridges that are suitable for a family of one, not four. Nope. Not. At. All.


And now may I say ‘Thank You’ to Mr Dyson who invented a hoover (sorry, vacuum cleaner) that actually works! I have had mine for five years and it has never given me a problem. It still sucks powerfully and doesn’t complain when marbles get stuck in its pipes. Yes it’s noisy, yes it’s a little on the heavy side, but it works. Happy Hoovering Housewife Here.


Your turn. Share your rants!