Friday, May 7, 2010

How Do You Drag Emotion From Your Reader?

There is a direct correlation between how much stress/relief you provide a reader during your story and how passionate they feel about it after it's over (more on that next week). How passionate your reader is about your work will determine how many people they tell about it.

So how do you make them feel those peaks of stress and valleys of relief? Well, the first thing we have to do is make our characters compelling and relatable( <--Blogger tells me this isn't a word, but Webster says it is... I'm going with the dictionary on this one, sorry B). If our readers don't care about the characters, then why would they care what happens to them?

Another important aspect, is to make sure the conflicts are both central to the story and that they incite a change in the characters. Characters that are evolving = much more intriguing.

We can also make the stakes huge--to the characters. Every story can't be about saving the world, but if our main characters feel like the stakes put their own lives, happiness, future, etc. in jeopardy--it will be just as moving.

Another way to bring emotion out in the reader is to make the scenery itself, match or conflict with the emotions (mostly with really powerful emotional scenes) within the scene. A peaceful emotion within a peaceful scene makes the reader feel one way, but a peaceful emotion within chaos makes them feel something different. Just don't stick a powerful emotion in a lame scene with no power--Go Big or Go Home. ;)

I discovered this last tip with my first book, ORACLE. There are a couple of scenes where Lexi is feeling seriously messed up--utter inner turmoil. In one scene, the world around her is also in chaos. In another, she's curled up in a tire swing in the backyard on a quiet night trying to hold perfectly still so no one will find her.

Which one got a bigger response from my readers? The tire swing, every single time.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this a lot lately because my current WIP is somewhat draining on my readers. I need to pull appropriate emotions at appropriate times. What do you guys do to pull that perfect response from your readers? What aspects of a book make it the most powerful for you?

P.S. If you haven't yet, don't forget to enter my giveaway by tonight! :) Because, really, who doesn't like winning stuff?

21 comments:

  1. Great post! I hadn't thought of emotions in those terms before--contrasting what they're feeling with their environment. Cool concept.

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  2. I often place my characters in a scene that reflects their emotional state. I am intrigued by the response you received regarding the tire swing. Sometimes looking from an entirely different perspective can make a scene more powerful. I'm going to be thinking about this today!

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  3. One of the reasons I started writing (There's always that isn't there?), is because I had been told numerous times, I took my reader with me and made them feel my words.

    Writing about myself, my deafness, life in general - piece of cake. Not so easy to mine that well for a character. I'm constantly irritated I can't flip a switch and simply produce the same effect I do on my blog in my fiction.

    I do see the possibility though and eventually I'll get there. (Hugs)Indigo

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  4. Wonderful post Jenn, lots for me to ponder and help with on a current project.

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  5. I really think emotion is what pulls the reader through the book. Excellent post. I need to add more in my wip. =)

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  6. Your post has got me thinking, and wanting to check out my own mss for setting as it relates to emotion. I know as a reader that it's the tiny details about a character that can be the most heartbreaking.

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  7. I think it's everything you posted about with that bit of magic thrown in. If we could put a formula to creating the right emotion than everyone would be bestsellers! In other words, I don't have a good answer. :)

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  8. I think it's everything you posted about with that bit of magic thrown in. If we could put a formula to creating the right emotion than everyone would be bestsellers! In other words, I don't have a good answer. :)

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  9. Great post, Jenn! I bookmarked this one. I plan to print it and add it to my writing folder.

    Have a great weekend! :-)

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  10. Love this post, Jenn! Conflict and how we use it to elicit emotion from our readers is absolutely key to writing a successful novel. Sounds like you're on the right track!

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  11. It's definitely the little moments that make the biggest impact for me. Although I love big explosions and shoot-'em-outs and F-bombs dropping left and right, the aftermath of a conflict, or the scene right before it, is usually what gets the biggest reaction from me.

    Take One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for example. The big climax was after the party, when McMurphy attacked the nurse. But I was on the verge of tears when you see him later, motionless in his hospital bed. My heart aches just thinking about it.

    Because of that, I always focus on those small moments of retrospection to really get my readers emotionally involved.

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  12. You're current WIP is full of amazing emotion! I think the comic relief helps even it out a bit.

    I think when the MC isn't getting any sympathy of validation from other characters the reader feels more sympathy. Just my opinion, but I think that's one good tool.

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  13. Great tip about making the scenery reflect or oppose what the character is thinking, feeling, going through. Love that!

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  14. In your honour and in the honour of wall the Writwrs and Poets, I published an ilustration.

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  15. "Just don't stick a powerful emotion in a lame scene with no power."

    I hate it when I'm reading and the MC starts reacting way over the top. I always think the writer is trying too hard to build tension and made the MC seem irrational instead.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog--I'm loving yours!

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  16. I also think you have to give your characters some happiness. I've read too many books where nothing good happens to anyone, which makes it hard to read.

    I agree with Candace, comic relief is a great way to break up the emotion.

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  17. At conference, David Farland said some very similar things about raising the stakes to give your readers a better payoff. You've explained it very well, and in a way I hadn't thought of before.

    Thank you for sharing!
    :)

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  18. Excellent post. You gave me new insights--thanks!

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  19. I often place my characters in a scene that reflects their emotional state.
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