Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A to Z Challenge: O is for Overwhelmed - Plus a Cover Reveal!

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!   


O is for Overwhelmed:  to be excessively or completely overcome or overpowered in mind, feeling, body, or spirit.

This is a widely used emotion in fiction.  After all, if a character is overwhelmed by his circumstances, he’s bound to experience tension and conflict, the key ingredients in every work of fiction.  But people react to this emotion in various ways. 

Some show no outward signs and keep their resulting emotions hidden, and that’s the key, really.  Being overwhelmed is not so much the emotion itself, but rather that which incites what overtakes us, like fear and anxiety or love and tranquility.

While there are many actions to show how a character physically experiences being overwhelmed, many feel cliché and overused like shaking all over or the character's arms curling his body.  I think, since the impact of this emotion is so internal and visceral, a more effective way to show it is to really get into the character’s head as they pace around, mumbling and contemplating the repercussions or circumstances that have overwhelmed them.

In my own novel, The Mistaken, the main character deliberates the serious ramifications of his violent actions.  (Edited for length.)

I paced the floor around me, unable—perhaps unwilling—to process the reality of what I had just done...the severity of the mistake I had made, and the dire consequences that now faced me, my brother, and the wounded woman cowering in fear and humiliation in the corner. The reality was that through the hazy cloud of alcohol and pills, I believed delivering a degrading punishment would somehow empower me, fulfill my need for revenge, and expunge the hate, grief, and rage that filled me. I thought my mind might be rewarded with a sense of balance, my soul a thread of justice, and my heart a measure of peace.
But I despised myself for the act...I could not have sunk any lower had I taken a human life with my bare hands...I was an abomination, a monster...
Whoever said vengeance is sweet was wrong. It’s the thought of vengeance—filtered through memories that haunt and torment—that is sweet. Not the act itself. The act is vile and bitter, and I felt physically ill as it filled me, as I realized...the pain, fear, and humiliation I had caused.

So while there is a vast array of ways to tangibly express being overwhelmed—scrubbing a hand down the face, staring and pacing, collapsing to the floor and squeezing the eyes tight, or pressing shaky fingers to the mouth—and these should be used to show a character’s physical response, consider the impact to his psyche, how he internalizes his emotion, because that is essentially where he’s experiencing the brunt of his overwhelming circumstances.

How do you react when you are overwhelmed?



"First Born"
by Tricia Zoeller
Releases May 10, 2013

Cover art by
Claudia at Phatpuppy &
Ashley at Bookish Brunette Designs

Mini Blurb:
"With the police and a killer hot on her trail, can shapeshifter Lily Moore solve the mystery of being First Born or will family secrets prove deadly?" 

Find Tricia Zoeller here:


Emily R. King said...

"Overwhelmed" does tend to come up a lot in fiction, doesn't it?

When I get overwhelmed, depending on the circumstances, I respond in various ways. Interesting characters do the same.

Congrats to Tricia! Beautiful cover!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cool cover!
When I'm overwhelmed, I need to step back and collect myself.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Overwhelmed I usually just need some time alone.

That is a beautiful cover.


Robin said...

Overwhelmed is how I'm feeling about this A to Z challenge.

First Born's cover design is great. Best of luck Tricia!

Julie Luek said...

I think that's an emotion we can all relate to one time or another; it's no wonder it finds its way into characters!

mooderino said...

Whenever I have too much to do my first reaction is to freeze up and get even more behind (thanks brain). the I slowly force myself to do one thing at a time.

Moody Writing

Elizabeth Seckman said...

An emotion I feel quite often...

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think we can all relate to being overwhelmed at times. I drink too much coffee, sometimes indulge in sweets, and try to create a list to knock off.

TheWineTwins said...

Wow! Congratulations on the cover! This book sounds incredible, I can't wait to read it!

When I'm overwhelmed- I duck and run. I tend to need a lot of alone time as it is- so when I'm overwhelmed, it just puts me into Mega Hermit Mode- LOL!

- Heather The Evil Twin with Love From the A to Z Challenge

mshatch said...

When I'm overwhelmed I tend to want to withdraw and regroup. Nice cover!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

The cover is so beautiful. Being overwhelmed is a great writing tool.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

That first picture is me overwhelmed. I go for the fetal look every time.

LD Masterson said...

Beautiful cover.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed it's time for a big mug of hot tea, and sitting quiet, preferably with a dog in my lap.

MickeyBurns said...

It's an awesome cover!!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome cover! When I'm overwhelmed, I pray . . . read a book . . . take a hot bubble bath, or all 3:-)

Christine Rains said...

Your book was fantastic! I wanted to write more in my review, but anything I wanted to say would be a spoiler and I didn't want to ruin any of those shocking surprises. :) When I'm overwhelmed, I tend to clean and/or eat. Then I push on.

Robin said...

I think people often do something that feels comforting when they feel overwhelmed. It is why so many people do things like eat, exercise, clean, or even take a quick nap.

Al Penwasser said...

I thought you meant the WRITER being overwhelmed. I get that.
Nice cover!

Chuck said...

Great emotion for today! I am in that stage of two days before a vacation out of country and getting all my final ducks in a row. Between that and work...I am overwhelmed.

But since I know where we are going is going to be major awesome relaxation, well, I'll deal with it.

BTW, I need your assistance in the comments on my Saturday you will see ;)

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Lynda R Young said...

I get grumpy when I'm overwhelmed ;)

Love that cover

Nancy Thompson said...

You got it, Chuck!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Dang, my comment didn't stick. And, of course, I said something brilliant. Overwhelmed, you say? I take the stress inward, unfortunately. Gotta learn to not do that. It's wrecking havoc on my skin and hair.