Emotion in Writing – Part 2
Part 1 looked at how to get the reader to invest in the main character to help establish an emotional bond and create characterisation so that they care about what happens to these characters.
To continue to build emotion in writing, writers must show the readers what to care about. Simply telling the reader how a character feels doesn’t work because there is no emotion involved. You have to show emotion to your readers for them to feel what’s happening with the story. To achieve that you need some well-worded description, which helps to strengthen a story, but also evoke emotions. Without showing, you end up with ‘telling’.
If you resort to ‘telling’ throughout an important scene, then there will be no immediacy, no connection with the main character and, ultimately, no emotion. The reader won’t care what happens to the main character. That’s why it’s vital to describe a character’s physical responses to the things going on around him/her, whether that’s a car chase, an armed robbery, an accident, a birthday party or a wedding. All are reactions to, and because of, emotion.
In essence, the more you can give to the reader, the more they will feel, because they will be totally immersed within that scene or that character – they will be sharing the main character’s journey, right from the opening paragraph of the story. Make them feel the sadness of a situation, make them react with happiness to good news or show their anger at something. Make use of physical descriptions and evocative imagery to highlight or suggest emotion, nut also remember to use dialogue and internal thoughts to also convey emotion and sentiment.
Description works because it brings the reader closer to the story and the characters by sharing emotions.
Something else that will bring emotion to storytelling is the use of themes, because whatever the genre, there are some themes that are, themselves, very emotive – things such as war, hatred, racism, betrayal and love, as well as other themes like grief and death, discovery, growing up and puberty, greed, jealousy and so on.
Emotive themes make for emotive writing. For instance, a novel about the atrocities of war will create an emotional impact with readers because of the subject matter. A novel detailing the betrayal of an innocent person’s battle with justice is also evocative, because the reader will empathise and support the main character’s struggles and they’ll want fairness and honesty to win the day. A light hearted story of growing up will likely be amusing and invoke similar memories for the reader because of shared emotions.
Every story has a theme, and each will be emotive in some way, and some will really resonate with the reader because they may have experienced something similar. Emotion brings familiarity, because they are a shared experience, so remember that the more you give your readers, the more they will feel.
In Part 3, we’ll look at how conflict, fear and the writer’s own experiences help to create emotion in writing.