Sunday, 24 October 2010

A heart count in my WIP causes mine to sink

I just did a search through my latest WIP, which is 14,040 words, and already it contains 14 mentions of the word 'heart'.

And in my first MS that's locked in a drawer never to be opened, the organ that pushes blood from one part of the body to the other appears over 80 times.

How's that for heart-attack material? 

I don't know whether you can have too many hearts in a romance, but I tend to rely on this essential organ too much in my attempts to evoke reactions from my characters. 

There's hearts beating, flying, swooping and sinking all over the shop!

There's tired analogies such as 'her heart beat like a drum' and other cliches including racing, heavy, empty and hollow hearts

A quick flick through several romance novels reveals: His heart stopped, his heart turned over, joy flooded her heart, her heart sank, his heart twisted in sympathy, her aching heart, heart banging against her rib cage, her heart beat out a grim rhythm of a farewell, he sounded as if she gashed a hole in his heart, her heart launched into a veering race (these last three, all very nice, are from Anna Campbell's Tempt The Devil). 

If the heart is used sparingly, it can be used to good effect. But too much of anything isn't recommended.

If there's anyone out there who can help me with this (and don't suggest I try using my imagination), I'd like to know. How does one describe a character's emotions without falling into cliches and relying on heart analogies and metaphors? 

 PS: This post was inspired by a poignant quote from an article in The Sun-Herald, where a former member of the French Foreign Legion, David Mason, says: "I stood next to the cot [of baby boy Abdou, who dies] and felt one of the strings that bound my heart to my soul stretch and snap."

PPS: I took the photo of these fibreglass heart lights at Ku de ta in Bali. It's an amazing nightclub that overlooks the beach at Seminyak on the south coast. The hearts were strung up in a tree at the entrance to the club to celebrate its tenth anniversary.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, my heart goes out to you, Shayne. LOL. I think this writing caper can be quite hard at times. As for helping you out I can't as I seem to do the same.
Great post by the way, warmed the cockles of my heart.
Sorry, couldn't resist.
Tam :)

Shayne said...

Many thanks for your heartfelt response.


Anonymous said...

Her heart melted, all down the front of her little black dress. She vowed never again would she stop for ice cream on her way to a date.


Anita Joy said...

Shayne, I am going to completely ignore your post, because otherwise I might feel compelled to do a search of my ms - and I refuse!

So instead I am going to comment on your lovely heart photo - gorgeous (maybe you should send to Rach for the cover of a future HeartsTalk).

Shayne said...

Hey Danny Boy,
You are a heartless rogue dog. That was rather clever.

It is depressing, I understand how you feel about these matters of the heart.

ARRGGGHHH! I've got Tam's compulsion.

jenn j mcleod said...

Don't lose heart, Shayne!!!!! I'm sure heart troubles, once diagnosed, can be treated but buggered if I know how. My question is when does something go from being a 'lovely phrase' (like that snapping strings example) to a cliche? Hmmm! More questions. Sorry, I know you wanted answers not more questions :)

Shayne said...

Hi Jenn,

My achy breaky heart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!