The Power of Emotion through Words


The Power of Emotion through Words

Natalie Bright

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. I have spark notes written on everything. Sticky notes, deposit slips, and torn bits of paper. I have numerous spiral notebooks and journals filled with spark notes. Some have morphed into written works, some are still waiting patiently. You just never know what those ‘sparks’ might become. In this case, one man’s sorrow becomes a beloved Christmas Carole of hope.

As I writer, I’m always fascinated with the history behind the words and how the environment at the time might influence the spark. Good or bad, joyous or devastating, a writer’s strong emotions can evolve into powerful words. The prefect example is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Hopeful Words behind the Sorrow

In the case of Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to his poem on December 25, 1864. The music and words are up-lifting and it’s always been one of my favorites, recalling joyous holidays with my favorite grandmother.

The words came from a very distraught Longfellow during one of the worst times in his life.

Tragedy Strikes

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had tried to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax. In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. How they both must have suffered through that long night, only to have Fanny die the next morning. Henry was much too ill to even attend her funeral.

“A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellow’s’ journal entry dated December 25, 1862.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in a battle. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for his motherless small children, Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, which some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became a beloved carol, sang and enjoyed by many generations.

As you read the words out loud, think about the emotions of a distraught husband and father, who is seeking peace and hope in a life that is filled with sorrow.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play

And mild and sweet their songs repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

In my heart I hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing

Like a choir singing

Does anybody hear them?

Peace on earth, good will to men

Then the bells rang more load and deep

God is not dead, nor does He sleep

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

And with our hearts we hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?

The life the angles singing

Open up your heart and hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth

Peace on earth, Good will to men

My all time favorite version of this song is performed by Casting Crowns. You can watch them signing Christmas Bells on YouTube.

 

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Reality vs. Fiction


Outtakes 125

Reality vs. Fiction

By Cait Collins

Hospital scenes on television and in the movies are nothing like reality. I have yet to see one doctor pat a nurse’s backside. Nor have I noticed doctors and nurses sneak into a supply closet for a quickie. In fact the hospital routine is pretty boring.

My niece recently had day surgery. Before the staff took her to the OR, the nurse anesthetist came in to meet with the patient. She verified my niece’s name matched the information on the bracelet. She confirmed the doctor and the procedure, and explained the process—sedative; anesthesia; intubation, and then she made way for the surgical nurse. Same procedure. The two ladies had different personalities. The anesthesiology nurse was pleasant but straight forward. The surgical nurse was professional but more personable. She assured us everything was under control. Then the doctor came in to mark the surgical field. Again, very nice, but totally professional.

Totally boring.

It’s no wonder writers exaggerate the setting. The trick is maintaining enough reality to keep the reader or television/movie viewer from sitting up and saying, “No way.” The long-running TV series ER is an excellent example of both good and bad writing. I truly loved this series, but I was also aware of the flaws. One can only go so far before the action is unbelievable.

One episode that rang true centered on misdiagnosed toxemia. The mother presented with an infection, but as treatment progressed, it became apparent Mom and baby were in jeopardy. A botched C Section and inability to control bleeding lead to the mother’s death. Dr. Green’s attempts to come to terms with his mistakes were so believable the viewer could feel his pain and self-doubt.

Not so believable was the disappearance of ER doctors from their shifts without having secured coverage for the department. Such action would result in the doctor’s dismissal from the hospital and possible suspension or loss of his license to practice. The quarantine episodes and the helicopter accident that deprived a surgeon of his arm were just too contrived to be good drama.

One story line that was well written and beautifully performed was Dr. Green’s death from brain cancer. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Watching the deterioration of a vibrant character hit too close to home. I watched the episode once. I will never watch it again. It hurts too much.

The ability to suspend disbelief, to make one believe the impossible is an art. It takes research, observation, and practice. But when done correctly and well, the reader or viewer is totally engrossed and satisfied with the work. The writer needs to develop good research techniques and professional sources so that his writing is believable. I challenge all of us to make the audience believe and accept exaggerations of reality.

Reality vs. Fiction


Outtakes 125

 

Reality vs. Fiction

By Cait Collins

Hospital scenes on television and in the movies are nothing like reality. I have yet to see one doctor pat a nurse’s backside. Nor have I noticed doctors and nurses sneak into a supply closet for a quickie. In fact the hospital routine is pretty boring.

My niece recently had day surgery. Before the staff took her to the OR, the nurse anesthetist came in to meet with the patient. She verified my niece’s name matched the information on the bracelet. She confirmed the doctor and the procedure, and explained the process—sedative; anesthesia; intubation, and then she made way for the surgical nurse. Same procedure. The two ladies had different personalities. The anesthesiology nurse was pleasant but straight forward. The surgical nurse was professional but more personable. She assured us everything was under control. Then the doctor came in to mark the surgical field. Again, very nice, but totally professional.

Totally boring.

It’s no wonder writers exaggerate the setting. The trick is maintaining enough reality to keep the reader or television/movie viewer from sitting up and saying, “No way.” The long-running TV series ER is an excellent example of both good and bad writing. I truly loved this series, but I was also aware of the flaws. One can only go so far before the action is unbelievable.

One episode that rang true centered on misdiagnosed toxemia. The mother presented with an infection, but as treatment progressed, it became apparent Mom and baby were in jeopardy. A botched C Section and inability to control bleeding lead to the mother’s death. Dr. Green’s attempts to come to terms with his mistakes were so believable the viewer could feel his pain and self-doubt.

Not so believable was the disappearance of ER doctors from their shifts without having secured coverage for the department. Such action would result in the doctor’s dismissal from the hospital and possible suspension or loss of his license to practice. The quarantine episodes and the helicopter accident that deprived a surgeon of his arm were just too contrived to be good drama.

One story line that was well written and beautifully performed was Dr. Green’s death from brain cancer. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Watching the deterioration of a vibrant character hit too close to home. I watched the episode once. I will never watch it again. It hurts too much.

The ability to suspend disbelief, to make one believe the impossible is an art. It takes research, observation, and practice. But when done correctly and well, the reader or viewer is totally engrossed and satisfied with the work. The writer needs to develop good research techniques and professional sources so that his writing is believable. I challenge all of us to make the audience believe and accept exaggerations of reality.

Characterization Profile List


Characterization Profile List

By Natalie Bright

 

Strengths

Weaknesses (give your character flaws to make them believable)

Self-perception

How others see him/her

Hobbies/Collections

Natural talents

Cultivated talents

Fears (What does your character fear the most? Make them face it)

Habits

Dreams (bad/good/reoccurring)

Most comfortable when

Most uncomfortable when

If granted one wish, what would it be? Why?

Present problems

External conflict or problem

Internal conflict or problem

Main obstacle or problem keeping character from obtaining goal

Character Arc

How does your character change from the beginning to the end of your story.

As the saying goes, you must know all of your characters secrets. What’s hidden in their closet? You may not use this information in your story, but you still need to know.

For Your Reference Library

Psychology of Creating Characters – by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life (Red Sneaker Writers Book Series) by William Bernhardt

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein

Happy writing!

www.nataliebright.com

2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest


Announcing

2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries 

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:

www.Panhandleprowriters.org

Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers