Emotion in Writing
A story without emotion isn’t a story worth reading.
Emotion is an undercurrent that runs throughout a story, it’s the glue that holds together certain scenes and situations and it also represents the sentiments and feelings each of your characters at any given point. That’s because emotion can create a sense of immediacy with your readers, a closeness that makes them empathise, understand and care about the characters.
But why is emotion so important in writing?
Emotion is very closely linked to conflict, so where’s there’s conflict, there’s emotion and where’s there’s emotion, there is often conflict. They’re almost intertwined, and in fiction, one entity cannot exist without the other. Conflict can therefore create an endless list of emotions.
There are several ways that writers can put emotion into their writing. The first thing is to ensure is that the readers care about the protagonist. They want to be there for every step of the journey, and to achieve that, you need a character that the reader will identify with, someone who can be an intentional hero, someone ordinary who could be extraordinary, someone who wants something so badly that they’d do anything to achieve it. If the reader doesn’t care about your hero, they won’t care for the story either, so establish a connection with the reader through shared emotions. For example, they might have had a bad childhood. Or maybe they lost a loved one. Or maybe they were betrayed by someone. Perhaps they have suffered a terrible trauma. Or maybe they’re trying to find the truth about something. These are all shared emotions – we’ve all experienced the same, in some capacity, and so will readers. They will understand and empathise with the character, and so immediacy can be established.
In addition to the characterisation, writers should provoke their readers by putting the main character in danger throughout the story. Give them seemingly impossible dilemmas and obstacles and put them through physical and emotional trauma. Make things difficult. Why? Because whatever they go through, the reader also goes through it with them.
The act of overcoming obstacles, facing problems, adversity and trauma will create a wide range of different emotions for the characters involved, and the situations within the story make for powerful emotional moments, the kind that the reader may also be familiar with and maintains their emotional connection to the story. Readers will feel the pain, the fear, the shock, the joy, the relief...everything you describe, they will feel it.
In Part 2, we’ll look at how description and emotive themes help with emotion in writing.