Eliciting Emotion From Your Readers

I hadn’t planned on writing this post today. Not until I finished my latest short story and shared it with my sister. She reads everything I write, even the not so good things. I love sharing my stories with her because she reads. A lot. I’m talking about a book a day. She mostly reads romance (of all varieties), fantasy, and some horror. I value her opinion because of her avid reading habits. Plus, she brings a different perspective since she reads primarily romance books. I’ve come to appreciate her thoughts more and more.

Yesterday afternoon I finished THROUGH MOURNING, what I describe as a haunting tale of love, loss, and letting go set during the zombie apocalypse…with a twist. I printed it and brought it to her. This morning she told me what she thought. I’ll give you the abbreviated version. “I like it,” she said. “You even brought a tear to my eye.”

Wait. What?

She went on to say how this was her second favorite story of mine and how she connected with the main character. Her favorite story remains LABOR OF LOVE, another zombie story. What can I say? Zombies give me the feels. Anyway, both stories got an emotional response from her. LABOR OF LOVE got her giggling while THROUGH MOURNING brought a tear to her eye.

Honestly, I went for the tears with THROUGH MOURNING. I became my character, in that place, that situation. I wanted to tug on reader’s heartstrings. However, I wasn’t sure how well I tugged on those heartstrings until someone else read it. Will everyone react the same way? There’s no way for me to know. All I could do as a writer was commit, fully, to the scene and trust my vision.

It’s one thing to want to do something. As writers we must let go of everything–all the daily baggage, whatever clouds our minds–and allow ourselves the freedom to create. No boundaries. No limits. Go big or go home.

Can we do this all the time? I don’t think so. The emotional punch will lose some of its oomph if we’re constantly shoving it down reader’s throats. Knowing when to unleash the emotional punch is just as important as how we do it. But when we do unleash the power of the emotional punch, we must go all in. Hold nothing back.

The next time you’re writing and find yourself wondering how much to give, ignore those thoughts. Give it everything you’ve got. Lead your readers confidently where you want them to go. Trust your instincts. Nine times out of ten they’ll lead you down the right path.

Don’t just write characters, bring them to life. Doesn’t matter what genre. There’s no better connection than the human one.

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10 comments

  1. Thanks for the post! I actually had these thoughts while writing a scene in my wip. And when my husband read it he called it “bare.” Sometimes you have to stop controlling the narrative and let the narrative go where it needs to go to be able to write your best! Now I just gotta go back and revise: my favorite thing to do 😉

  2. I’m currently listening to the book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness (great, great book, btw), and there’s this scene in it that had me sobbing – made me want to learn how to create such strong emotional depth in my own writing. My heart still aches thinking about that scene; it’s so amazing that someone can create such strong emotions just by putting the right words on a page.

    Great post! And I agree – I love having a sister willing to read all my stories, too, good and bad. Definitely a huge help to have someone who will be 100% honest with you, whose opinion you can trust.

  3. Uuuuuugh, I love that you wrote this post. I have such a hard time letting go of the inner thoughts going, “huuum, but should I be that emotional here?”. I have SUCH a hard time letting that go.
    Thanks. 😀

    1. I think it’s something that comes with time. Sometimes, for better or worse, I’ll look at my writing visually. There are times when you know you’ve built up to a certain scene and this is the place to go all out, sort of like a in a movie. Maybe I’m just weird like that. Keep at it. You’ll be able to beat the doubts down in no time!

  4. Thank you for sharing this post. I’m struggling right now with characters in my latest novel. I’ve created a monster because I have too many personalities to deal with any of them well.

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