Saturday, April 13, 2013

A to Z Challenge: L is for Loneliness

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge!

This year, I’m focusing on two themes:  Emotions and grammar,
depending on which letter we’re on each day.

I’ll be sharing mostly what I’ve learned about writing emotion into a novel, but I’ll also be throwing in a few key grammar lessons, pet peeves I’ve picked up while working as an editor.

Today’s an emotion day. 


L is for Loneliness:  affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship; isolated.

I had to write about this emotion a great deal in my own novel, The Mistaken.  The main character’s wife dies and he feels responsible.  Immediately after, he isolates himself, even when there are many people around him, his friends, his family.  No one can take the place of the one he loved most.  A lot of the time, that’s how loneliness works.  I wrote a short passage at the end that deals with this feeling:

“It was disconcerting to be among all that was so familiar yet feel that the heart that beat within my chest was not actually my own.  I was lost, like a child separated from a parent in a large crowd.  Not alone, yet quintessentially lonely.”

And in the middle of the book, when the sight of another woman makes him miss the one he’s lost:

“I spent more than a small amount of time propped up against the wall, watching her, studying her face, so beautiful, so peaceful in sleep.  I knew I shouldn’t be watching her without her knowledge, but I missed having that kind of beauty near me.  Having it so close, yet knowing it was not mine, was a bitter pill, but I felt as if I’d been pulled back through time, back to when Jillian was still alive.  I was unbearably lonely, and, at that moment, Hannah filled me in ways Jillian once had.  It was difficult to turn away from something as alluring as that.”     

This shows how loneliness is not about solitude, but rather about isolation, feeling separate, emotionally divided from the whole.  A character can be in a room full of his friends and family while they festively celebrate a momentous occasion, a birthday, a wedding, yet even among all these people, who likely love and care for him, as the very symbols of happiness swirl around him, he feels the most lonely. 

This type of contrast in imagery and emotion can be very effective and relieve the writer from having to rely on clichéd and overused body language.


mooderino said...

Good points. I think using contrast (like being in a public place or around others) is a better way to show something that can be quite uninteresting if you tackle it head on by showing someone alone.

Moody Writing

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes the character can be lonely without realizing that's what he really feels. He doesn't fully grasp there is a void until something starts to fill it.
I know you're not lonely right now! You and Jennifer are going to get into all sorts of trouble this weekend.

Al Diaz said...

I think I understand what your character felt. Today I wrote a post about a person who left such void in my life. And although I do have friends and family and not alone, sometimes I do feel lonely and I reflect it in my main characters. Not all the time, of course.
Father Dragon Writes

Julie Luek said...

Lonliness is such a catalyst emotion with characters. It can be the huge conflict and great motivator for change. Great example, Nancy.

Stephen Tremp said...

Emotions are a powerful way to define a character and help drive conflict. Cool theme this year! And I have a new blog. Hope to see you stop by and say hello!

Robin said...

Loneliness is a tough emotion for the person to grasp who is actually dealing with it. I am not entirely certain that everyone processes it the same way. I think that the way that you chose to have this character see the glimpses of his own loneliness and recognize it for what it was... inspired!

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

Oh yes, you brutalize your character like a sadist in "The Mistaken." I kept thinking "Nancy is so cruel. How could she?"

The Desert Rocks said...

Nice description. It is a bitter pill. Very cool.

Shell Flower said...

This is some great advice for showing emotion in writing. Your poor character sounds lonely indeed. I'm going to have to remember this in my writing.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I thought the scene where he remembers and longs for his wife was very poignant.

Gwen Gardner said...

Very emotive passages you've written. A great way to show rather than tell. I have trouble with that. Thanks for the lesson, Nancy :)

Andrew Leon said...

I'm pretty sure they make a replica edition of Eowyn's sword, but thinkgeek doesn't have it anymore.

Ella said...

Nicely done!
I love what you shared~
Hope you have a fab weekend :D

Chuck said...

Nice post, Nancy. You used this emotion well in your book...and I remember those two passages.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Craig Edwards said...

Terrific passages - and an equally terrific post!

Maria Dunn said...

Thanks Nancy. Good illustration of your point. God bless, Maria from Yes he does. And yes it is great that I can be a part of it. God bless, Maria