Friday, April 26, 2013

A to Z Challenge: W is for Worry

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.

Today’s an emotion day!


W is for Worry:  to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; to torment with cares or anxiety; plagued by fret.

We’ve all experienced that dreadful feeling of anxiety eating at our gut.  It’s kind of like fear, but more about what we don’t know, what might happen, expectation.  Anticipation.  When including it in our writing, I think it helps to show the entire process, from the first nagging thoughts to full-blown terror, if that’s where the situation leads. 

But try not to hit your reader over the head with it all at once.  Worry calls for a bit of subtlety, easing into it at first, antagonizing the anxiety with outside forces, then ratcheting it up until the character breaks into a more extreme emotion, like fear, or somehow finds relief. 

There is a plethora of ways in which to show the reader how a character experiences worry.  I bite my nails, chew on the inside of my cheeks, or pull my hair out, strand by stand.  Others pace or chain smoke, rub hands through their hair or scrub down their face, they blink and fidget, or just stare out into space with a furrowed brow, their lip drawn in between their teeth as they wring their hands or crack their knuckles. 

The list is extensive, and I do think a few should be employed to reinforce the feeling, but since worry is such an internalized emotion, a lot of the wordplay might be better suited to the character’s internal monologue, the questions that plague him, what might happen, the consequences, and how he will handle it. 

But when the worry is being shared between two or more characters, the best way to express it is with dialogue that barks back and forth, snapping questions, demanding answers, challenging accountability, even to the point of quarreling or perhaps an awkward silence.

In The Mistaken, I have one scene where the main character anxiously awaits a call from his wife after a day of bickering. He answers every call, hoping it might be her.  When he discovers she’s been in a horrific accident, he barges into the emergency room, calling out her name in high-pitched hysteria.  Then, as he watches the medical team futilely attempt life-saving procedures on her, he reacts internally as if each maneuver is being performed on him instead.

The book is packed with anxiety-riddled scenes where the characters worry about who’s out to get them, how close they’re getting, and how they’ll ever manage to stay alive against unimaginable and insurmountable odds. 

Have you ever written a worry-filled scene?  What imagery did you depend on to bring that anxiety to life?


Sheena-kay Graham said...

In my W.I.P. I have Alice waiting to be rescued from prison. Imagery includes her drab surroundings, thin body and sack cloth clothing. Plus wringing of the hands. Worry can be a great tool but like you said, don't throw it out all at once.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My third book is a slow build up of worry from start to finish and I think worry shows more in the characters' exhaustion because you can only be in that state so long before your body grows tired.

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like I should just describe what I do when I sit down to write! Seriously, these are great tips. Another idea would be to have the character not able to focus or concentrate on anything - because when you're worried about something that tends to absorb all your thoughts.

mooderino said...

Worry is quite a difficult one to get right. Easy to slip into melodrama. Good advice.

Moody Writing

Chuck said...

You used this well throughout Mistaken. I am now using it in preparing to fly back home tomorrow! I will catch up on all your posts when I get back. Thanks, Nancy.

LuAnn Braley said...

The last time I can conclusively state that I wrote about worry was in my college days. One was the second scene in a short play for a class; the scene involved a wife worrying about how her husband would react to increasing police investigation of the local moonshining operation. The second was a chapter of a book about vampires.

Mark Means said...

I haven't had much call to write on worry, but I'll keep these words in mind when I do :)

Choki Gyeltshen said...

Nice post

Heather M. Gardner said...

I eat when I worry too. This is starting to explain a lot.

I need meds!