We Yearn for Different Things

Few emotions or feelings begin with the letter “Y,” but because it is day 25 of the A to Z Blog Challenge, I made myself find one.  Yearn is one that we don’t hear often, so a good one to talk about today.Yearn is to long for, lust after, desire, and more.  So, why don’t we hear about it more?  The word “yearn” is likely too old-fashioned for most writers and considering its first known use is predates the 12th century, the word is getting on up in years.

So, precisely what do your characters yearn for?  And how do you show that yearning?

yearn | intransitive verb

1: to long persistently, sadly, urgently <yearns to make a difference> 2: to feel tenderness or compassion

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Perhaps you have struggled with developing and showing a character’s desire or passion for another person.  Maybe the other person is far away, perhaps in a war, at college or university, by choice.  Your character wishes desperately that the other was close at hand, at least nearby.

Use the expression in the eyes, the turn of the lips, the gentleness of demeanor.  Can you see longing in her eyes?  The slight pout of her lips? A mere touch to the blinds?  What else do you see?

A writer can be developing a main character from the animal world, and find a need to give this animal yearning in his story line.  Would the expressions be the same?  Different?  What do you think?

Let’s take a look at a good example of animal yearning.

Who or what is this expectant-looking cat waiting for?  Perhaps the cat is waiting for children to arrive home from school, or the bird he’s watching to magically be allowed within his realm, or is it the chance to escape to the outdoors this feline is anticipating.  We cannot tell simply from looking, but it’s the looking that gives us the ability to craft a character yearning for a change in circumstances.

Children too have yearnings, but usually for those things which cannot be.  Candy, cookies, sugar top the list.  Playing instead of studying might rank #2.  But with warmer weather coming on, I recalled how often the ice cream truck came through our neighborhood when I was growing up.  Our “yearnings” were that we’d alwaysbe allowed to buy something. Every. Single. Time.  Some days, however,we were left with sad and downcast eyes peering through the window or screen door as the truck passed on by.

Note that you can sense the yearning for what is beyond the window even though the child’s face is hidden from view.  Expressed by a sense of waiting, anticipation for something, or the fact that something has just passed her by is evident in her posture.

It is not always necessary that facial expressions lead us to the characterization in our work.  Body posture, the use of the hands, arms and legs, and often the way the body stands or sits in relationship to other items in the scene.

I see this child as resolved to whatever her fate — with her feet tucked under her, I don’t expect her jumping up and running somewhere quickly.  To me they show she is aware that nothing is about to happen.

Most often the word “yearn” is used in romantic relationships or in situations where family members are separated by one of a variety of reasons.  But don’t we all yearn to fit in?  Whether it’s a writing group, a book club, a group that gathers daily for coffee, a newlywed into a family of in-laws, into  many different kinds of relationships. We all want to belong!  Just like the little guy down below . . .

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Note:  I am traveling April 25th through 29th and will not have Internet access.  I will respond to your comments as I can when I return.

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Bubbly Like Champagne

Personalities bubbling like champagne are describedas vivacious, spritely, spirited, and lively.  Always upbeat,these people seem to have an overabundance ofenergy and vitality.

vivacious | adjective

lively in temper, conduct or spirit. Synonyms: animated, frisky, jaunty, perky, pert, sprightly, spring.

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As I read this definition and the synonyms for vivacious, the words remind me of one of my favorite Broadway actresses, Kristin Chenoweth.

Singer, actor, and comedienne, Chenoweth displays her trademark vivacity in all phases of her life.  Her interviews are energetic and lively, and those qualities seem to come from an inner happiness and spirit.

Her memoir, A Little Bit Wicked,reveals her spunky attitude and her love of life.  Through her use of authentic stories and memories, Chenoweth reveals the vivacious attitude and persona she has possessed since childhood.

Using famous stars and persons known to you because of their public life is a good way to find the personality you need for a particular character.  Reading their stories is helpful as well.

And with today’s technology we are able to watch them at any time on YouTube and other media available to us.

So, it sounds like there is not a good reason for not finding the right qualities for that next character!

Note:  I am traveling April 25th through 29th and will not have Internet access.  I will respond to your comments as I can when I return.

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I Can’t Decide!

“I can’t decide,” sighed the child.“How hard can it be — either chocolate or vanilla!”

“But  I can’t decide.”

UNDECIDED .  Haven’t we all felt undecided.  Making decisions is not always easy, even if it’s something as simple as the ice cream flavor we want.  Life decisions are even harder.

And harder yet is portraying that undecided character.  Body language plays a role here along with the dialogue for this character.  Think of someone wavering or vacillating, back and forth between choices.

undecided | adjective

1. not decided or determined.
2. not having one’s mind fully made up.
Synonyms:  indecisive, fluctuating, wavering, vacillating, irresolute.

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Writing dialogue for the undecided character is simpler than building an image of that character in the reader’s mind.  The answers of the undecided character easily come to mind.  Look at the options in this image.

But it’s the person, the character the writer wants to breathe life into.  Characteristics that come to mind are:

  • scratching the head
  • looking up while holding the chin
  • an expression of confusion or perplexity
  • agitation shown by pacing or walking around

Images may help portray body language:


If stumped when writing, always search for images such as these and print them out. Tack them on the wall or stand them against something on your desk and use that image to spur your imagination and creative juices along in the development of your undecided character, or any character for that matter.

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Terse Is Neatly Compact

The sound of the word “terse” would lead you to think perhaps this reflects only a tense and cutting personality.

However, terse is a composite of many emotions. The terse person is usually polished, smooth and elegant. Another who is terse might be brusque and short.

terse | adjective

1 : smoothly elegant : polished
2 : using few words : devoid of superfluity <a terse summary>; also short, brusque <dismissed me with a terse “no”>

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With its origins in Latin, its root, tersus, means clean and neat. Researching the word “terse” showed me as a writer I could not only develop a character of many proportions from this adjective, but also could learn a bit about my writing style.

In my career as a legal secretary/administrator, an attorney for whom I worked for a short period was terse.  There were times when it seemed that he had no time to answer my questions or share the time of day.  Over time, I came to understand that this was a man who did not believe in wasting his words or breath.  However, in the courtroom, he dazzled judges with his terse arguments and closing statements — concise, to the point, simple.  This attorney was well-trained, both from the standpoint of time management and the legal aspects of his clients’ needs.

The writing tip in the definition above is held in the words “using few words : devoid of superfluity.”

Instructors and coaches teach us we should write tight, ridding our writing of any unnecessary words.  In essence, we are to be terse writers.

Examine some of your writing to see if indeed you are a terse writer, or is this something you need to be conscious of more often.

The more information passed along with the fewest words may make for more readers, happy readers, well-informed readers.

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