How Emotions Affect Perspective

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Last semester in my English class, my professor had us write a paper on how emotions can affect perspective. We were required to create a scene (an ordinary scene like at a restaurant) and describe everything through our emotions.


In the first paragraph, we had to write about the scene as though we were in a bad mood. Of course, naturally, this would put a bad perspective on everything. I wrote my scene in a restaurant. I started off talking about the scorching sun and the hot, humid breeze. I talked about how the waitress had sweat beading all on her face, not bothering to wipe it away. Her hair is sloppy and she is always rushing in an impatient manner. There are children screaming and smacking each other, and the mother doesn't care. Birds cackle overhead, screeching loudly.

Yikes, did you see how negative that was? Everything seemed so negative because I was writing as though I was in a bad mood.

In the second paragraph, we had to rewrite the scene as if we were in a good mood. I wrote about the relieving breeze, and the waitress that was quickly fulfilling everyone's orders, keeping them happy. Her hair is casually thrown up into a bun, the trend of this summer. Two girls are giggling playfully and squealing in childish spirit. White birds swoop around as people turn to look at them.

Do you notice how different the tone of this was? That was all because I spoke from a happy perspective, even though it was the exact same scene I was witnessing.

I got a 98 on this paper, so hopefully I understood it well enough.

When you're writing from a person's perspective and they're describing the scene around them, if they're in bad mood then that will automatically affect how they feel about something. Have you ever noticed how when you're grumpy, everything people do wrong really makes you angry? Or you get frustrated and think, "Gah! They're so stupid!" Your characters need to feel this way also in order for it to be convincing.

If they're happy, though, people tend to be optimistic. When they see other people messing up, instead of getting angry they may be supportive and help the other person get whatever they're doing wrong, right.  They may think, "Oh, well nobody's perfect" or "I do that too sometimes."

To a happy person, the screams of children may bring back good memories and she may look at them as darling.

To a person in a bad mood, the screams of children would be annoying and bothersome.

Do you see what I'm saying here? If your character is in a type of mood, you need to stay consistent and have that mood affect the way they view things.  (Another thing about consistency, don't make the character angry in one chapter and happy in the next and not explain why. Give us reasons for their mood, or their mood change.)

Hopefully this isn't too hard to understand, I've never really tried to explain it before.

Oh, also, if your character is sad or depressed, she probably won't be as observant as she might have been in the previous chapters when she was in a different mood. Right now, she'd probably only pay attention to what affected her.

Like if she sees a family that looks happy, it would probably make her mood worse because she already feels lonely. Describe how the family is happy, don't use the adjective. Talk about the kids laughing, the parents smiling and kissing, all of them talking and walking through the park, everyone having a good time. We'll figure out on our own that they're happy. Once again, don't use an adjective to describe her mood; SHOW IT. Do more tears spill out, does she think of her family, does she watch in jealousy, does her heart sink in her chest?

CHALLENGE: If you know of a scene in your book where your character is in a particular mood (other than neutral. Think happy, sad, angry, joyful, carefree, etc.) then read through and see how her emotions may affect how she views something. If she's angry or impatient, would those people talking REALLY be just another background noise, or would they be a distraction? Find ways to include her emotions through perspective. If you have a specific question, ask me!

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