Tuesday, April 3, 2012

D is for Desperation

Yes, desperation. Sounded like a good word to me and I want to talk specifically about the struggle of "show, don't tell" with something that I'm certain a number of writers deal with at some point in at least one of their stories.

(Image link)

What is Desperation:

Definition 1: loss of hope and surrender to despair
Definition 2: a state of hopelessness leading to rashness

Fiction often talks about a character being desperate and almost any character could experience it whether it's the protagonist, the antagonist, a child, an adult, someone in desperate need or someone who just thinks they are desperate. But often times in a few different common forms: one character observing another that they are desperate, trying to hide desperation, and in particular, someone reeking of desperation. Sure it varies some, but often the word "desperate" or "desperation" is used.

But what does desperation really look like? Are there any tell tale signs that people can do that doesn't involve using the words "desperate" or "desperation." And more importantly, why does someone who seems desperate often reek of it? What does desperation smell like? Seriously. I tried looking up where the phrase "reeks of desperation" comes from but got tired of looking through links that all use the term but don't explain the origin. Well, technically reek also means "exude" so I guess that could be what reeks of desperation means, but it would be interesting to know what it might smell like.

In writing, we are often told to show, not tell, and that makes me curious about what desperation is like in the show way.

What does desperation look like to you?
What, if anything, do you think it would smell like?


The Hopeful Romantic said...

You can tell when a writer has reached the point of desperation - it comes out in how she or he writes. The text is forced and doesn't seem to flow...it may be subtle and not as obvious but i am very conscious when i am forcing what I am writing. For the most part - Desperation is uncomfortable and unattractive. However, out of desperation can ccome new thinking - innovative ideas round a problem or the necessary abandonment of a project to start from anew. So i guess, it can be positive :)


Shannon Cyr said...

Great word choice for the letter D. Personally, I imagine desperation to smell like sweat that's being masked with a sweet, floral perfume. No matter how hard you try to dress it up, desperation seeps through.

Stephanie said...

I think the picture says it all. Desperation is the misery of wanting something you know you can't have. It's manic, hair tearing, hyper emotion. Smiling just a bit too much, laughing a little too hard. Swinging from boundless hopefulness, to bone weary depression because for one second, you thought you might get what you wanted.

Not an easy thing to write.

Tara Tyler said...

face stretched in desperation
or sweat ran down his back in his effort to reach her in time!

just a couple of desperate thoughts =)

Elizabeth said...

Interesting questions. Desperation looks wide-eyed and pale to me and probably smells like sweat.

Anonymous said...

Desperation is watching your daughter trying to choke herself to death - because she's feeling trapped and hopeless because she's in a wheelchair, the result of an accident. She can't walk, can't take care of herself, and after 26 years this way she feels like she has no control of her life; that I, her care giver, would be better off without her. And I feel like I'm in a black hole that smells musty, that smells like fear. How does fear smell? And she is in the same hole. How do you describe such feelings?
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Dawn Embers said...

The Hopeful Romantic - That is a good point. Never thought about the actual writer's desperation showing in their work. It can have positive results at times too.

Shannon Cyr - Thanks. Sweat makes sense for certain situations. The desperation during a battle is probably a sweaty moment for example. Never would have thought about a perfume failing to hide it, interesting.

Stephanie - Good point. Trying to show it can be difficult because of what the emotion entails.

Tara Tyler - Some good attempts to show it, thanks.

Elizabeth - Thanks. Interesting response with the wide eyed part in particular.

Ann Best - Very good point Ann. Sometimes it's impossible to truly explain or show the desperation, and sometimes it may be better not to do such. Thanks for commenting on the topic. *hugs*

Em-Musing said...

Desperation to me is checking my email every fifteen minutes to see if I got a positive response from an agent that I sent a query to.

Em-Musing said...

I tried to "follow" you, but didn't see the link. Is Blogger acting crazy on your blog too?

Damyanti said...

Nah. That picture hurts me. Hate whenever I remember similar moments in my life.

Look forward to your challenge run…
--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Dawn Embers said...

Em-Musing - Yes, blogger is acting weird. The thing that shows number of comments a post has was acting up earlier. Hopefully the issues iron out soon.

Damyanti - Hello and thank you for stopping by my blog.