Write epic emotion by making your protagonist feel the opposite of what they should.
Updated: Dec 24, 2022
I used to really struggle with writing emotion - like, believable emotion - with my characters. You know that without emotion, you don't have a story. Not an epic one, at least.
So then I got into this phase where I went overboard with bodily reactions. If Jaime was feeling afraid, he would shudder and feel chills running up his spine and also not be able to breathe.
My editor told me to pick one and not overload my reader with every physical thing that was happening in my characters' body.
But what if your character is always feeling fear, or anger, or sadness? When you're writing epic fantasy - especially young adult - you're going to have a ton of scenes with high levels of angst. How do you make your high stakes scenes stand out when your character is always angry? (or substitute with another emotion)
Try using this awesome trick.
Make your character feel the opposite of what they should feel - and watch your story rise to epic heights.
For example, in The Last Phoenix, one of the major plot points occurs when Arrys is battling against a beloved family member. When he's forced to flee, the overwhelming realization that he's lost everything rushes into him. Normally, what should a teen feel in this situation?
Angst, anger, overwhelm, grief - right?
But instead, I make Arrys feel... nothing at all. He's so numb from loss, that he goes to the point where there's an emotional void in his chest.
Doesn't that round him out much more than if he were to feel the stock emotions of fear and grief?
Great fantasy, and any epic story really, starts with great emotion. Where can you apply this neat trick in your own novel? Choose a high tension, high stakes scene. Surprise yourself - and most of all, let your protagonist surprise you.