Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hating on

Came across this is a review of Norah Jones's latest:
"That would be like hating on peaches for being juicy."

I am always-- who knows why-- charmed by the term "hating on."  "Hating" is a static  verb, referring to a feeling. (I am hating the smell of that banana peel in the trashcan under my desk.)

But "hating on" is an active verb. It's a new construction, but generally means that I don't just statically hate this thing, but I, you know, bitch about it, write nasty Tweets about it, leave bad reviews on the Amazon page. That is, I actively act on my hatred when I hate on something.

We should remember that when we're writing character emotions. If a character has strong emotion, she doesn't just feel the emotion. She acts on it in some way, especially if she can't formulate the thought or speak the words because the emotion is verboten somehow. She might not be dumb enough to SAY or even "think outloud" the thought, "I hate my best friend," but if she hates her best friend, she's going to show it somehow. She'll clench up when the friend comes close. She'll notice the friend's number on her cell phone display and refuse to answer it. She'll accidentally on purpose forward the friend's confidential rant about her boss to the boss. She might not TELL the emotion, but she'll SHOW it.

Telling what the character is feeling is good. It shows character depth. But it's not enough, especially when the character isn't able to articulate or own up to the feeling. Try showing it instead, and I don't mean useless actions like kicking that banana-redolent trashcan.For example, she closes the phone and ignores her friend's phone call, thereby missing out on the warning that her department is going to be closed and she laid off. Or her friend is fired by the boss and vows eternal revenge against the company, not realizing it was our character's fault for forwarding the email.

How can the character hate on or love on or deliberate on or worry on or bitter on or resent on in a way that affects the plot or at least that scene?



Reina M. Williams said...

Love the phrase and your thoughts are very helpful, as usual. Now if I can just get back to writing! ;)

Alicia said...

Reina, if you find the solution to that darned only 24 hours in the day problem, let me know!


Cecilia Gray said...

D'oh! Could have used this 10,000 words ago. Thank goodness for REVISION!