A Life Of Fiction CXXV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.


Black Dog: Winston Churchill called his depression his black dog. It is something which I find interesting, as those deep, dark troughs of despair are something which I suffer from myself. But, before you switch websites, let me say that this post is not going to be about myself and my mental problems. Even I can see that that would be incredibly boring to read about.

No, rather, this post will be about trying to get across the mental state of your characters in your stories. I don’t think I have done post about trying to portray the emotional state of your protagonists. So here it is.

The most obvious thing to do is to say that your character is happy, or depressed, or whatever emotion he is experiencing at a particular time in your novel. But that does not really get across any of the intensity of whatever emotion he or she is suffering.

So you need similes, metaphors, and all of those things which might describe falling into the Black Pit of Despair (or whatever the particular emotion happens to be). Falling into a black pit is one such, but a rather obvious one, which has been used many times before.

We link depression with blackness and darkness. If you have ever suffered from it you will know why. We talk of gloom, shadows, murk, sunless, benighted and so on. But don’t limit yourself to those words. They have been used time and time again. Think of dark places; of dark things; and try them out.

Jill was suffering the darkness of depression. There is nothing wrong with that sentence; and I have almost certainly used something similar in my works. But, like I said, it is not very original prose.

Jill was, once again, a prisoner of the Dungeon; that dark place her thoughts would go when she was depressed. A little better, in that you are, at least, trying to be original; to this poor, depressed Jill, her depression is almost a physical place in which she feels trapped.

Yet think about trying to express depression in other ways, ones which do not necessarily invoke darkness (that has been done). Think of all of the bad things which can be associated with those thoughts, and try to find your own voice. Perhaps you see depression as a void of good thoughts and emotions: void, absence, hollow, vacuum and so on.

Or perhaps you see depression as a manifestation of evil: evil, bane, curse, Hell and so on.

Mental illness (including depression) has, in the past, been associated with possession: possession, demons, interloper etcetera, etcetera.

There are other possibilities (such as a prison in the example above). Come up with your own. Originality is the important thing – people do not want to read words and descriptions which they have read before.


Depression is just one example, of course. I hope that any characters you write about suffer the whole gamut of emotions. Develop words to describe happiness; mental tiredness; fear; and all of the other things which people can feel. Try out different things on paper and see whether they work or not. If you don’t feel that they work then change them.

He was as happy as a pig in muck. She was as happy as a kid who had not only got the keys to the candy store, but who knew that nobody was going to disturb him for the next few days.

   Those have been done. The second one is slightly more original than the first. You can always take something like a kid in a candy store and try to twist it further.

He was as scared as a person would be if not only were all of the devils of Hell pursuing him, but elevation to duke of Hell had been promised to the one who actually caught up with him.

Don’t be afraid of being absurd (you can change it if it doesn’t work0. I know that example is not the best in the world. But – guess what – I’m keeping the best stuff for myself.


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