Part 2 in Daniel Smith's guest post:
Today we'll talk about blending the eight basic emotions and how to use them in our writing. The color wheel (GIF Image) from last time doesn't show any blending beyond neighboring emotions. These are listed between the "petals" in the flower diagram. For example, "Optimism" is a blend of both "Anticipation" and "Joy". Thankfully, Plutchik didn't stop there. Last time I introduced you to:
|Emotion||LVL||Composition||Opposite||Intense Form||Mild Form|
|Aggressiveness||Primary Blend||Anger + Anticipation||Alarm1|
|Optimism||Primary Blend||Anticipation + Joy||Disappointment|
|Contempt||Primary Blend||Disgust + Anger||Submission|
|Alarm1||Primary Blend||Fear + Surprise||Aggressiveness|
|Love||Primary Blend||Joy + Trust||Remorse|
|Remorse||Primary Blend||Sadness + Disgust||Love|
|Disappointment||Primary Blend||Surprise + Sadness||Optimism|
|Submission||Primary Blend||Trust + Fear||Contempt|
|Pride||Secondary Blend||Anger + Joy||Despair|
|Fatalism||Secondary Blend||Anticipation + Trust||Incredulity2|
|Cynicism||Secondary Blend||Disgust + Anticipation||Curiosity|
|Despair||Secondary Blend||Fear + Sadness||Pride|
|Guilt||Secondary Blend||Joy + Fear||Envy|
|Envy||Secondary Blend||Sadness + Anger||Guilt|
|Incredulity2||Secondary Blend||Surprise + Disgust||Fatalism|
|Curiosity||Secondary Blend||Trust + Surprise||Cynicism|
|Dominance||Tertiary Blend||Anger + Trust||Shame|
|Anxiety||Tertiary Blend||Anticipation + Fear||Outrage|
|Morbidness||Tertiary Blend||Disgust + Joy||Sentimentality|
|Shame||Tertiary Blend||Fear + Disgust||Dominance|
|Outrage||Tertiary Blend||Surprise + Anger||Anxiety|
|Sentimentality||Tertiary Blend||Trust + Sadness||Morbidness|
|Delight||Tertiary Blend||Joy + Surprise||Pessimism|
|Pessimism||Tertiary Blend||Sadness + Anticipation||Delight|
2 - Plutchik did not include an emotion for "Anticipation + Trust" by any list I could find. Therefore, I have included "Incredulity" in this space though some disagree as to the validity of the word.
3 - Plutchik did not include the state described as "Emotional Zero" in his list. However, I believe it is useful and have therefore included "Peacefulness" to represent it.
So how can we tap into this ocean of emotion and make it flow onto our pages?
- The first and simplest step is to save a copy of this information for your personal reference. A fabulous poster exists courtesy of Markus Drews of the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany. Download it here.
- Next, read over the list of emotions again. Look at the diagram. Get them into your head. Study. Focus. Cram. Actually, don't cram but do all the other things. Take the time to really explore what this theory means to you and your writing.
- Feel free to test the limits of Plutchik's theory as you do this. For example, does the combination of "Fear + Disgust" suggest "Shame" to you as he proposes? How about the other combinations? I had an excellent discussion with someone who expressed doubt about Fear and Anger being mutually-exclusive opposites. I shared this insight: In both emotions, one's attention is strongly focused - usually on some object or person. However, the action that expresses the emotion happens in opposite directions; Fear is about escaping away from that focal object whereas when Angry one usually cannot be kept away. Clearly 'approach' and 'escape' cannot co-exist in the same moment of time so in this sense at least Fear and Anger are mutually-exclusive opposites.
- The previous step should naturally lead to thoughts of individual characters as their emotions travel around Plutchik's wheel. In general, let the wheel be the spark that ignites your creative juices. In particular, use the wheel to identify and emphasize opposites (as in dialogue between two characters with different scene purposes).
- Finally, if Plutchik's research is correct, then many writers are not using the full spectrum (or potential) of emotions in their writing. Make your characters three-dimensional by showing as much depth to their personalities as possible.
How about Outrage (Surprise + Anger) over the state of her door, Anticipation that an intruder might still lurk inside, Fear and very likely Terror (Intense Fear) that she will be discovered on the stoop. In Alarm (Surprise + Fear) she grasps the grocery bags tight around her body like a shield. Her eyes are wide with Grief (Intense Sadness) as she lowers her head in an act of Submission (Trust + Fear) over the state of her home and backs ever so silently away. As she nears the driveway she sees a shadowy figure in the outline of the broken door and reacts with Disgust and Contempt (Anger + Disgust), but she controls her emotions and does not leap toward the fiend in Rage (Intense Anger). Finding the handle to the car door provides instant relief (Serenity) as she finally starts to Calm Down (Peacefulness, Emotional Zero) knowing that soon she will be safely away. She Trusts her engine to start and run smoothly - and it does. No good writer would write a scene this way, so take it for what it is - an example, an exploration of all eight emotions in the same scene. Yet if you count them up, they're all represented! While including all eight probably isn't a good thing, exploring all eight for each scene is. Thus writers can use Plutchik to explore each of the eight emotions in your scenes in order to identify which are the best emotions to use or emphasize. It works like this: We all have pet words that we tend to overuse. We often prefer certain letters of the alphabet for our characters' names too. And the same goes for emotions. In short, we're biased. We write about certain emotions while ignoring others. So use Plutchik to keep your writing fresh by exploring the areas of human emotion that you often overlook. Keep what improves your writing and discard what doesn't.
Finally, the thoughtful and observant writer will note the need for specific methods to include this material in their writing. For this, I propose the need for a comprehensive list of Facial Expressions, Body Language, and Mental States mapped to Plutchik's emotions. However, in my research such a list does not yet exist. So that will have to be the topic of another post.