The same type of emotional response that fuels our memory banks is also what makes characters memorable. Think back to all your favorite movie and book scenes. Characters that make us laugh, cry or tremble with fear stay with us long after we turn the last page or walk out of a theater. I was only ten when I read Little Women but I still remember feeling sad when Beth died.
Readers choose genres for emotional reasons. They read romances to experience the joy of falling in love. They expect thrillers to excite; horror to shock; mysteries to surprise. If a book disappoints, it’s generally because it fails to meet a reader’s emotional expectations. Readers don’t want to read a story, they want to feel it.
Here are some tips for giving your story an emotional lift.
Make Us Care
There are many ways to reach a reader’s emotional core, but first of all you must make readers care about the character. Melvin in As Good as it Gets was one of the most flawed and unlikeable characters you’d ever hope to meet. Melvin’s gruff exterior wouldn’t have worked without the lonely and vulnerable man inside who made us care.
Make Us Bond
Another way to reach readers emotionally is to make them bond with the character through recognition and familiarity. I’ve never lived in the ocean depths, but I’ve known loss and I know how it feels to be a concerned parent. That’s what made me identify with and care about an overprotective clownfish named Marlin in Finding Nemo. Write about werewolves if you want, set your story on Planet X, but it’s the humanity of your characters that will keep readers turning those pages.
Make Us Feel
Readers are also affected emotionally through theme. Theme is the emotional base beneath the story. We are told to write what we know. Better advice would be to write what we’re
passionate about. What’s important to you? What are your passions? Is it love, freedom, salvation or injustice? The passion of your theme will strike a chord in readers.
Don’t just state an emotion, show it. I don’t want to know that Paul is angry. I want to see him tighten his lips and pull down his eyebrows. The seven basic emotions are anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. These basic emotions have been proven to produce certain facial expressions. Learn them and use them.
A four-year-old I know was on a quest to find a spider. When asked why, he replied “I want it to bite my grandmother.” He then went on to explain that Spider Man got his super human powers from a spider bite. Since his grandmother was having trouble with her eyes, he figured that a spider bite would help her see again. The driving force behind that little boy’s actions was his love and concern for his grandmother and his desire to help her. His motivation was simple, yet compelling, and I admit it made me teary eyed. That’s the kind of response we want from readers.
Write the Truth
Emotions spring from truth; Loss is sad, war is tough, love is grand. Write about truth and your readers can’t help but respond with emotion.
Dora here. Have you read a book lately where a character left an indelible impression on you? Can you pinpoint why?
But she isn't the only one there with something to hide. Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is working the scene undercover as well. And although their true identities are a secret, it is impossible for Jeremy and Miranda to hide the spark that flares between them.
But neither is about to let romance interfere with such a huge case. Besides, Miranda hasn't removed Jeremy from her list of suspects yet. The closer they come to uncovering the identity of the Phantom, the more dangerous he gets - and no one on the ranch is safe.
But neither are their hearts - the longer Miranda and Jeremy spend working together, the harder it becomes to keep their feelings in check. Their careers - and their lives - depend on solving this case. Love will have to wait.
Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except she happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."
Margaret wasn’t sure at the time if this was true, but she wasn’t about to take chances. She’s now a New York Times bestselling author with more than 30 novels to her credit, Gunpowder Tea has just been released and her work is currently in A Bride for All Seasons, A Pioneer Christmas and A Log Cabin Christmas collections. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence. www.margaretbrownley.com