Thursday, August 21, 2008

Emotions and the Characters Who Have Them

I just had myself a good cry the other day. Now, I am not looking for sympathy. In fact, I am getting to the point I can laugh about what happened. I also needed to jump in and blog since I haven’t done so for several weeks (sorry!) and thought I’d kill two birds with one rock.

My story goes back a few years ago (prologues—love ‘em or hate ‘em). I was on my way to work, sitting still in traffic when I heard sirens. Along with the other good citizens, I pulled over to the side. Not enough. The car fleeing pursuit drove through the lanes of traffic, scraping between every car along the way. Turns out said car held a crack dealer who was driving one of his customer’s cars!! I kid you not.

Since then, I have been a magnet. I was returning a rental car in Nashville, sitting still when the people in front of me backed up and totaled my rental car. We got stuck in the ice in Virginia, my father came to help, slid and took out my front light. We had a ripping flat on vacation outside of Williamsburg on the hottest day of the year. We thought it was the Toyota van, bought a Kia. Had about a year’s reprieve. Then, and this is the only one where I actually DID anything, I backed up into my brother-in-law’s SUV when he came to visit and parked in my blind spot.

Last week, I was visiting in Virginia, stopped at railroad tracks, and the man in front of me backed up and hit me. Last Saturday, I’d been running errands and the last thing on my list was to go through the car wash. The machines malfunctioned and smashed in my back windshield. I looked out my rearview mirror, told my daughter the machines were behaving strangely and saw it happen.

So, in the spirit of using what we know, I’m going to analyze my emotions and apply said analysis to writing. When the huge machine hit my window, my daughter and I screamed. The eleven-year old child told me to get us out of there. I was already on my way. The adrenaline pumping, I had tunnel vision, and didn’t see anything but the path to the parking space in front of the store. We got out and went in. I was able to tell the cashier clearly what had happened. I felt dizzy. I could see nothing beyond eight feet.

In Psychology, there is a theory that the physiological reactions happen first and our interpretations of them come after. We don’t even know what we’re feeling at the time, even though our interpretations can come quickly.

I didn’t look at the damage until we were safe at home. My daughter calmed down, and we told Daddy together. He thought it wasn’t any big deal. The insurance would cover it. I went upstairs to cry.

He hadn’t reacted properly. I must have done something to deserve all these bad things happening to me. The rational part of my brain told me nobody had been hurt and luck was luck. The emotional side had taken over and wouldn’t listen, until I cried myself out. The next day, I joked about it with friends.

Crime and Punishment is not a book on many high school reading lists, and for good reason. When I read it, I descended into vicarious madness with the main character. I looked out my school bus window and couldn’t see the sun shining in front of my face.

Now, that’s emotion.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

OMG! Lex, I'm sure you're a nice person, but if you ever ask to borrow my car, I'm going to say no. :)

I think sometimes a good cry really helps. Every time I hear an ambulance siren I cry. There are a lot of reasons for this but I don't worry about it since I understand why it happens. I usually feel better afterwards.

Mel Hiers said...

Hi, Lexie! Geez, somebody hit you with the bad luck stick when it comes to driving!

I have a theory that I bought Wonder Woman's car because no one seems to see me on the road. (Could also be because I drive a white Metro, but the Wonder Woman theory is more fun.) Thankfully, most of mine have been near accidents, but you get shaken up almost as much.

Emotion is so powerful, and so hard to write. I don't know if it's because it's hard to look at emotion clinically, or if it's easy to remove oneself after the fact.

Dostoevsky does seem to have a handle on it, though!

Evonne Wareham said...


Sounds like a scary experience. Hope you can channel it when writing some time.

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, you're luck with cars and driving could be applied to other areas of my life.
Overall, so far, even though I've had some scary driving incidents, and one bad accident that was partly due to being an inexperienced doesn't equal yours.
However, in some areas of my life, you might as well say pure emotional torture. To be honest.
So, I feel for you, believe me. And crying is actually a good thing, cathartic and is also good for your physiology.
I think it is tough to write emotions because how do you convey the true intensity of what the character is feeling without going overboard into maudlin and whining?
Sending some good vibes your way!

Lexie O'Neill said...


Thanks for the good vibes! My van is fixed, and now my tv is in the shop:) This, too, shall pass.

I do think channeling these things into writing helps...and it is hard to write anything without looking pitiful:) My hope is that it is something about dark vans? Oh, that doesn't work when it comes to the rental car.

I'm off to make cheesecake:)

Hope everyone is doing well,

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Oooo, cheesecake! I always request that for my birthday since I really don't like regular birthday cake. However, I like the cheesecake with the sour cream topping... Okay, now I've got to run to the store to buy ingredients! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

No fair talking about cheesecake! Nothing better than good cheesecake. I'm partial to strawberry topping.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Anitra and Sav,
I'm sorry I didn't get to respond in a timely began this past week and Friday I went from class to class to meeting to meeting to carpool to a faculty dinner (on the beach, so I'm not complaining).
As far as the cheesecake...I've made many different types, always up for a new recipe:) Maybe I'll post one of my faves on my next blog--this past one was raspberry swirl, not exciting.
Take care,

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, exciting to me!