Stephen King’s craft book, On Writing, is a gem that I recommend to anyone who wants to make writing their career. A picture says a thousand words, and evoking emotion in writing is the same. No one reads the same book and you can’t let words get in the way of the story because the most profound human emotions are diminished when we describe them. So, if that’s the case, how on earth are gifted masters so skilled at evoking emotion in writing?
Evoking emotion in writing
Here are five techniques you can use for evoking emotion in writing:
Show, don’t tell
This is age old writing advice and is easy to pick out in other people’s writing, but harder to find in your own (hence why you really need to hire a professional editor if you are self-publishing your book – traditional publishers cover this cost).
The idea is to immerse readers in a scene as though they are watching it play out rather than you telling them what they are supposed to think and feel. Let the reader figure it out and use their imaginations rather than boring them with too much detail.
Use all five senses
Many new authors default to describing what their characters are seeing. However, we have five senses and they all play a role in telling a story. Smells are most strongly connected to human memories, so if a character is walking into a bakery, make me feel that with all my senses. This is especially important in sex scenes so they don’t become a series of monotonous descriptions of he did this, then she did that.
Create strong characters
Readers don’t need to feel what your characters are feeling, especially if you have an unsympathetic character or an anti-hero, like Trevor from Sweet Redemption. However, you do need readers to feel something, even if it’s anger.
How many times have you cringed when a heroine made yet another dumb decision to put herself in peril? This is why I write strong women because nobody has time for that nonsense. But whether we enjoy a movie or book, we remember when it makes us feel. My beta readers have consistently told me that my stories are immersive, which is the best compliment.
Find a rich, unique voice
Genre fiction isn’t composed of lyrical sentences. That isn’t to say the writing can’t be beautiful and emotional, but you can bend some grammatical rules. For example, short, choppy sentence fragments can be used in a chase scene. Readers aren’t picking up your book to dissect the grammar; they want to be swept away by your story. Authors become known for “their voice” so it’s important to let yours shine rather than trying to imitate others.
Do the hard things
You love your characters and the world you’ve created. I get it. But life can’t be too easy for your hero and heroine or no one will want to read the story. Don’t be afraid to kill characters, to create conflict, or to have terrible, life altering circumstances rock their fictional worlds. I love well developed story and character arcs (hint: so do literary agents) and you can’t have an engaging novel if everyone is going merrily along their way.
What is the last book you read that made you feel deeply?
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