I'm writing a book centred on loss and heartbreak and I keep getting stuck at a point where the main character has to give an eulogy at a funeral. I'm hoping I can get some help or tips maybe? Thanks
Keep in mind that writing a "good" eulogy is a different task than writing a eulogy that is "good for your book". As with any other element of your book, this particular piece of writing needs to serve the storyline, the character development, and all the other needs of the book. Therefore, depending on the needs of the book, you might want a eulogy that is offensive, shocking, overly intimate, digressive, disquieting, or narcissistic, none of which are qualities that you would want in a real-life eulogy.
I would start by deciding what you need for your character and plot at this point, and then build the eulogy around it. Should this eulogy create a conflict? Reveal a secret? Introduce hidden aspects of the main character? If the eulogy is early in the book, it should be creating problems, not solving them. Of course, this could take many different forms. If the deceased was a good person, you could do a more standard eulogy, and the problem posed for the main character is living up to the deceased's shining example. Conversely, if the deceased was not a good person, the main character might face the challenge of fixing the problems left behind --or the tension of lying to cover up a life that was not well lived.
A good approach is to start writing it as a significantly biased biography. The history of life of the deceased, birth to death, in chronological order, but focusing on human interactions, events shaping character, displays of underlining traits, friends, relations, passions, big personal achievements, fulfilled dreams and contributions of the deceased. Summarize as what of immaterial goods they left us (taught, supported, guided, cheered) and what of such continued contributions we've lost with the passing of the person (left alone, without guidance...). Optionally, make promises to continue the mission in their stead. Thank, say good-bye.
Don't overdo the part about the speaker, the family, these "left behind" - mention, express feelings, but - it comes out as egocentric if you talk more about what you feel about the deceased than about the deceased. It's not your funeral, you're not the focus, you're a narrator given a minor background role. Don't try to steal the spotlight.
Before you even begin to write an entire eulogy from the perspective of the character, you have to make sure it doesn't sound phony when it counts.
As, a writer one should always be aware of what a character is thinking or going through at any particular moment. Internalise a character's pain, pleasure, sadness or depression. Any attempt to even describe what a character is feeling should always be preceded by a deep sense of understanding of a characters state of mind. It can sometimes be a painful process but it's worth it when the words on the paper read real.
After internalisation comes the reaction. Was the character close to the deceased? If no then an over the top reaction will be awkward and phony. The reaction must always be proportional to the closeness of a the relation.
Then, comes the third phase: nostalgia. The character starts to think about his/her relation with the deceased. All the sweet and sour moments comes to him/her in bits of agonising clarity or flashes of blurry images.
After all that is sorted out: the pain, the reaction to that pain and the nostalgic memories of a lost friend, then what an eulogy after all is, is simply a summation; an elucidation of all these complex feelings and emotions that the character has gone through after hearing the sad news.
And again, i can't stress it enough that for the above to work the writer must know the character like he/she knows him/herself.