Funerals are always emotional. When you write about a character’s funeral, it’s all about the emotion you convey. These five tips can help you to heighten the emotion:
1. Devote a good paragraph to the setting.
What does the funeral home look like? What kinds of flowers are set out? At the grave site, write about the weather. Weather often plays a big role and can contribute to the tone of the piece.
2. Describe your character’s grief.
Grief can be expressed in many ways.
Physically: in the form of headaches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, fatigue, aches and pains.
Emotionally: crying bouts, extreme sadness, depression, worry, anxiety, guilt, denial, anger, and frustration.
Let your character rage. Death is something that we can never understand when someone we love passes away, and anger is often a major coping mechanism. Your character can scream at other characters or unleash their anger on innocent people.
3. Don’t neglect the water works.
Utilize tears at the perfect moment: when your main character has to follow the casket out of the church, when she tosses a rose into a grave, or when she accepts the American flag in honor of her loved one.
4. Give your character a eulogy to read.
What would you say about your mother? Your sister? Your child? Your wife? Your best friend? Whatever you would say at a loved one’s funeral will resonate with others and will most definitely cause your readers to choke up, too.
5. Have your character recall memories of the person who passed away.
Memories are always powerful. Don’t underestimate the use of a memory whether it is happy or sad. Showing a memory could reveal a moment of symbolism that can impact your readers.
|Photo by Chrys Fey|
My grandma, Clara.
I put that stone on her grave when I was eighteen.
It was my first time visiting her grave.
Another option is to write about a character viewing a funeral from afar. If you do this, the emotion you use will be even more important because you won't have the advantage of writing about everything that happens during the funeral. So, describe the setting and what your character sees. Although your character isn't there, she could still see the cemetery, the casket, and recognize some people they know.
Focus heavily on your character’s thoughts and emotions. You can still let her cry and think about what they would say if they could. Is the funeral for an abusive step-father? Maybe she will shed tears over the painful memories she has.
After the funeral: Don’t forget to write about what happens after the funeral. Does your character listen to condolences? Does she escape into a dark room, curl up in bed, or pick up a bottle for comfort?
Always follow your character’s grief. You can’t just kill a character off, write a sad funeral, and then bring everything back to normal. Even if your protagonist is a detective and has to continue investigating a case, make sure her grief is a cloud hanging over him. Let your character’s grief impact her social life by making her depressed and by cutting herself off from friends. You can even let your character question her faith.
After your character’s grief runs its course, let your readers know when and how she finally accepts the death of her loved one. The moment of acceptance is as equally important as the funeral itself.
Continue to follow your character through the healing process while progressing your story forward.
QUESTION: What do you remember the most about a loved one's funeral/memorial?
*Check out this poem: De Mortuis by Ette Meyer written in response to my question.
If you have lost a loved one, I am opening the comments as a place for you to share their names and memories.