Question 28: Writing about feelings you've never felt

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hudbrixfnxk asks: How do you write about feelings you've never experienced?

When writing stories, authors often come upon subjects we've never personally dealt with before. Murders, broken bones, getting arrested, PTSD... there are an endless number of topics that we might want to write about that we've never experienced ourselves. All of these things we can research online.

But what about feelings? There isn't exactly a compendium of "how to feel heartbroken". The thing about feelings is there are so many ways to react to the same situation. How do you write about grief if no one close to you has ever died? Or jealousy if you've never had a boyfriend/girlfriend?

Imagine Similar Feelings

Maybe you want to write a scene where the main character feels jealous that her boyfriend is flirting with another girl. Try to think of a time where you felt jealous over anything at all. Maybe you wanted attention from your dad, but he kept giving it to your younger sister instead. How did that make you feel? Think about that, and then try to apply some of those feelings to the situation you're writing about.

Read About Well-Documented Feelings

Grief is one of those things with a million articles on what to expect, how to cope, and resources you can turn to. If you are writing about loss of a loved one, become well acquainted with all steps in the grieving process. While people don't react to grief in exactly the same way, they do follow a similar pattern. It's not just crying. It's a whole lot of things.

Pay Attention to Movies

Movies often do a great job portraying all kinds of feelings. Watch how the actors behave when they're angry or sad or vengeful. What body language do they use? What tones of voice? How do they react toward others? Pay attention to how do these feelings manifest in the first place, how they develop into something stronger or weaker, and how it evolves over time as different things happen to them. Although movies are usually fiction, the feelings portrayed in them are based on reality.

Maybe Wait Until You're More Experienced

You may think, "What? That's terrible advice! I want to write about this now!"

When I was a kid, I wrote a few stories involving romantic feelings and first kisses and other sweet stuff that I had absolutely no clue about. Years later, when I read that stuff, I cringe at how utterly naive it sounds. I knew nothing about those feelings, and it showed. Now, when I write about feelings, I have a wealth of experience to pick from. (A lot of them are unwanted! But still valuable.) My writing is a lot more realistic than when I was 12. Sometimes there just isn't a substitute for actual experience.

What are some other tricks you use to write about feelings you haven't experienced?

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