Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about ways to capture character emotions. I briefly touched on using personal experiences. Little did I know I would soon face a situation that left me (and several of my neighbors) more than a little “uncomfortable.” Hope you don’t mind a brief story.
In early March, a man shot a woman in her home, then fled the scene. This happened within a mile of my house. What followed was a four-day man hunt involving multiple local, county, and state law enforcement agencies.
Typical of the twenty-first century, most of us turned to social media to keep up with the situation. A neighborhood watch Facebook page got a lot of activity. People reported numerous “sightings,” some likely valid, others not. But when he walked in on another homeowner, things got interesting. Fortunately, when the homeowner flashed his gun, the man fled without harming anyone.
The area where I live has lots of woods, so he could easily hide. My husband works evenings, so I was at the house alone. It’s scary to hear a DPS helicopter circling your house or see law enforcement officers in various places when you drive to work.
What was I feeling? Fear? Apprehension? A little of both?
There’s a fine line between fear and apprehension. Dictionary (dot) com defines fear as “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”
The definition of apprehension is “Anticipation of adversity or misfortune; suspicion or fear of future trouble or evil.”
I didn’t experience a gut-wrenching fear, but I was very much aware of what could happen. I took extra precautions when I went to bed that night. It was still dark when I left for work the following morning, so I asked my husband to walk outside with me until I got in the car.
A few days later, I had another experience that caused another emotion—anger. I had a meeting at work, so I left the house early. Most days I stop at my favorite fast-food restaurant for a sausage biscuit and iced tea. (Yes, I eat healthy. LOL). That morning, what should have taken five minutes max took over twenty. I asked them if they had to slaughter a hog for the sausage, but it turns out they had a new ordering system that no one could navigate.
Then, I swear every dimwit driver in the country took the interstate that day. They hugged the left lane, driving almost as slow as cars in the right lane (both well under the speed limit) making it almost impossible to pass. Truck drivers would try to pass others while ascending a hill.
When I finally arrived at work, I’m sure my blood pressure was over the top. My head hurt and my neck was stiff from tension.
I share these stories to illustrate a point. We experience a wide range of emotions. It isn’t often an escaped suspect is on the loose in my neighborhood, so I made notes of what I was feeling (internal and external sensations). A tingling spine, a queasy stomach, quickened pulse, etc.
During the driving incident, I pounded on the steering wheel, honked the horn a few times, and yes, said a few choice words. The next time I have a character stuck in traffic, I’ll remember how I felt. In addition to capturing the emotions, the incidents can lead to ideas for scenes in a story.
I’m happy to report authorities apprehended the suspect before he harmed anyone else and the victim’s wounds weren’t life-threatening. Your turn. Have you ever used a personal experience in your story? Do you think about personal experiences to capture a character’s emotions? Please share in the comments.