How To Write Character Emotion: Contentment

8 years ago

Ahh...contentment. There's nothing quite like it.

Let's dig into it with our brains and see if we can find fresh ways to convey it on the page.

Synonyms: satisfaction, gratification, happiness, pleasure, peace, ease, serenity, comfort

I happen to believe that there are degrees of contentment. Here's how I've categorized it (from mildest to strongest): happiness, ease, comfort, pleasure, peace, gratification, serenity, satisfaction

Quote: Contentment is “closer to satisfaction with the way things are than to happiness, contentment is having what you want. It might be momentary and fleeting, it might have happened long ago, it might be a state of mind. But it is always total satisfaction.” Creating Character Emotion, Ann Hood

How To Depict Contentment:
1. Think back to times in your own life when you felt contentment, and how you felt, then use those emotions when writing a contented character.

2. How to show, rather than tell, contentment? (a wisp of a smile, relaxed motions, words spoken slowly and with obvious relish, deep sighs that end with a smile).

3. Use narrative description to help convey contentment (a lazy, relaxing day; beautiful scenery; sunshine and warmth).

4. I think that contentment is sometimes being really grounded and secure in who you are. The character of Tami in Robert Whitlow's Higher Hope comes across as being very grounded and secure and unapologetic about who she is.

Possible Uses:
1. The contented character is the perfect target for tragedy and disappointment. (We writers are such a demented lot!) :D

2. Something I've been considering a lot is the overall picture in my stories. The plot has to move from beginning to end, the character has to show growth from beginning to end, the spiritual thread has to move from beginning to end, and the same holds true for emotion as part of the character's growth. Those novels that end with an "aah" are those that show the contentment of the character at the end, even though he/she may have been through heartbreak, discontent, trouble, etc. on the journey to contentment.

My Own Contentment: (As suggested above, it's good for us to remember our own feelings of contentment, so that we can write it for our characters. Here's my partial list.)

1. A time where I had reached a lifelong dream.

2. A time when I realized I had found a place to escape to--a place to be happy. Once you find a place like this, it's easy to conjure up feelings of contentment to use in your writing, because you just shut your eyes and imagine yourself there!

3. Times when I've worked at something with my own hands. For some reason, for me, doing something myself makes it that much more satisfying.

Here's how contentment feels to me: (Try your own list of metaphorical language.)
1. like cold chocolate ice cream on a scorching summer day
2. soothing
3. like being wrapped in a soft fuzzy blanket on a cold night
4. like sitting beside a crackling fire
5. like breathing in fresh cool air
6. like having a light breeze brush your face
7. like watching a sunrise or sunset
8. like sunlight shining off the water
9. like the most beautiful scenes you’ve ever seen taking up residence in your soul

Cliches To Avoid (or to write fresh!): had to pinch herself to see if she was dreaming, happily ever after

How about you? Add your own thoughts about contentment to the comments section.

(EXTRA INCENTIVE: For every time you join the discussion of emotion on this week's posts, I'll add your name to the drawing for a copy of Robert Whitlow's latest legal thriller, Higher Hope.)

Character Emotion: Introduction
Character Emotion: ANGER
Character Emotion: WORRY & ANXIETY

NEXT POST: How To Write Character Emotion: CURIOSITY

(Visit to join the writer/reader discussion on the character emotion of contentment.)

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