In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I asked some first-time authors the following question:
As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?
Here’s the latest reply, this one from author Stacy A. Nyikos:
I had a very forthright editor once who said, “Stories are about emotions, my dear.”
I nodded, my bottom lip trembling at the sight of the flocks of red marks soaring across my manuscript. I was having emotions. Lots of–sniff, sniff–emotions.
Of course, what she was trying to tell me was that emotions guide a story as much as–if not more than–plot, character, and sequence of events. Emotions have to be consistent. You can’t have a sad character who suddenly gets happy, which is what I’d done.
As I deleted, I promised my now very distressed character we’d get out of the mess I’d gotten her into, but we had to get through trials and tribulations first. She wasn’t happy, but she went along.
The story became all the richer both for the consistency of emotion that drove it, and the happy resolution it produced in the end. Dragon Wishes (Blooming Tree, 2008) became about redemption in the face of loss, not about running away from it.
For me, emotion is one of the core foundational blocks of a story. A story based on a driving emotion takes on a life outside of the sum of words and paragraphs that make up the narrative. It lives and breathes through the feelings evoked in my readers, lingering well after the words begin to fade.