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?
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.
Image attributions may be found by clicking on the image.