It sounds a bit odd, but these days whenever I experience something emotional in real life, I immediately try to keep track of what my body did and what my thinking was…
so I can use it in a story.
Don’t look at me like that.
The other day, I got in my car to go to Riverview to watch a friend give a presentation at a library, and my phone GPS app said it would be a 40 minute drive.
And about 20 minutes into the drive as I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it told me it was still 40 minute drive. And 20 minutes later (as I have only moved about 100 yards), it was still a 40 mill minute drive…
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Anyway, it was a nice night, so I had the windows open – but only on the passenger side, because when the car is moving it blows the air around nicely that way without getting too much.
A tow truck went flying by my left side in the emergency lane, going about 100 miles an hour. I didn’t see it.
And as it roared by, it totally caught me by surprise.
My head lowered, my shoulders raised, I moved away from the window…
My first emotional reaction was, of course, that I was scared.
That thing surprised me. It really went by close. Too close. It seemed like it was practically going to hit me.
My next reaction was anger. Stupid jerk, driving that fast, that close, blah, blah, blah…
And then I thought, Hmm. What all am I feeling?
First of all I flinched, as I said. I think I also snapped my teeth shut, and could’ve bitten my tongue, but luckily, well, I don’t know where my tongue was, but it wasn’t in the way of my teeth. My stomach jumped. That’s how I refer to it, but there was a huge wave of borderline adrenaline that shot through my system like lightning.
And after that, my heart was pounding.
I’m not a wimp. I’m not scared of trucks. Just trying to tell you what happened.
And then your body wants to do something with that adrenaline.
In this case it turned it to anger
and I furrowed my brow and scowled and said something like, “Stupid idiot!” Then I looked in the rearview mirror and the driver behind me was basically expressing the same facial expressions as I felt I was.
So I thought, jot this down – so I’d have it.
Other people will react differently. It’s good to know what your character’s personalities are, because when they get scared they’re going to do different things.
And of course it’s always handy at moments like this to make a note so you can dip into the paint bucket of emotion later. Or make a blog post about it.
What are some of the emotional experiences YOU have had in real life that you used in a story?