The Heart of It

19 Apr

Beating out of my chest.

In my throat.

On my sleeve.

In my pocket. 

In my mouth.


People often talk about their hearts being in a place other than the chest, so much so that some have even become cliché. But thinking about the location of your characters’ hearts (or your own heart, for that matter) can be pretty revealing.

I’ve come up with some definitions, by the location of the heart of course, for the way characters reveal their feelings:

The Back Pocket Character: You hate to see them go but you love to watch them leave. And when they do, the reader can finally figure out what they are all about. This character keeps his or her heart hidden until the end of the story, making for a pretty dramatic climax/resolution.

The On the Tip of my Tongue Character: Things are tougher than a year-old piece of bubble gum. That’s because this character is on the cusp of self-discovery, but can’t quite put a finger on what it is…yet.

The Elbow to the Gut Character: This character’s emotions are a weapon, and revealing them is a major blow to other characters. This works well for antagonists out for revenge.

The Charlie Horse Character: This character’s emotions are causing a serious cramp…in his or her development, that is. One the character works out what is really going on, he or she can change.

The Cold Shoulder Character: This character is introverted to the extreme, only because he or she is keeping something from everyone else. Melting the cold shoulder can be the quest or the resolution.

The Bun in the Oven Character: It may not be a baby, but this character is growing something warm inside. Maybe this character is finding self-confidence or falling in love.

The Stamp on the Forehead Character: Scorned, distrusting, or self-doubting, this character might as well have his or her emotional situation stamped on the forehead. This character is probably involved in more of an emotional plot than an action plot. The drama can come from the character discovering that the stamp doesn’t quite fit. Or from following what the stamp means.

Do you know where your character fits? Or, if your character doesn’t fit any of these, can you come up with your own (I’d love for you to post it in the comments)?

Where our characters’ hearts lie is only the beginning. Gold, divided, black, warm, broken, purple, cold…there’s so much more to our characters’ hearts. And discovering that can help us find the heart of our stories.

More About Heart:

Rachel Ballon shares some great exercises for injecting emotion into your story:

A fun quiz to discover which fictional character you are most like (I’m Juliet…oh great):

Malcolm R. Campbell discusses getting to know your characters so well that you know what they’re doing before and after your story:

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Character


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