One thing Jerry Cleaver pushes in Immediate Fiction is Emotion.
Emotion is the payoff, the ultimate connection, where identification occurs, where the reader becomes the character and feels what the character feels.
Understanding emotion is about understanding your character because emotions control our thoughts and define us.
More than anything else, what we feel and what we have feelings about—who we love, how we love, who we hate, how we hate, and the things in between—define who we are.
Emotions are responses. We don’t intentionally create emotions nor force how our body physically responds to them.
But thought leads to those emotions. Cleaver uses the example of someone sticking a gun in your ribs in a deserted parking lot and wanting your money.
Your body doesn’t react alone. Something else happens first. Oh my God. He’s got a gun. I’m going to die. You think. Not only do you think, but you think first. The mind leads the body.
Our character’s minds think, and they never stop. They are constantly reacting and responding to the world.
Yes, our characters take action, but the stimulus of the world creates thoughts, and our thoughts lead to more responses and more thoughts.
As humans, we constantly respond to the world; as writers, we need to get those responses on the page.