How to Hook Your Readers With Emotion
As a fiction writer, you've probably been told that your readers must care about the story's characters or they won't keep reading. Good advice, but how do you accomplish that?
The best way to make your readers care is to enable them to feel the same emotions your characters feel. Once they are emotionally involved, the story will take on a personal meaning.
An emotional reaction begins with a physiological change in the body: a tightening of the stomach; a tingling of the arms and legs; a pounding of the heart; a lump in the throat. Some responses may
extend to the outer body: foreheads perspire, fingers tremble, lips quiver. We experience these internal responses whether we want to or not.
An emotional reaction becomes external when we express with our bodies what we are feeling inside. An angry man twists his face into a frown. He might also take a swipe at the object of his anger. A happy woman curves her lips into a smile and may embrace the person who has made her happy.
To emotionally involve your readers, allow them to participate in the character's internal and external reactions.
Suppose your character, Joe, has received a letter from his wife stating that she plans to divorce him. An internal reaction might go like this:
As Joe read Susan's letter, a knot formed in h is stomach.
An external reaction might be:
Joe shredded the letter and tossed it into the wastebasket.
Or, you might combine action with dialogue:
Joe snatched up the phone and punched in Susan's number. When she answered, he shouted, "You're not going to get rid of me. I'll never give you a divorce. Never!"
Responses to stimuli are highly individual; therefore, you must thoroughly know your characters. Spend time with them before you begin writing. Imagine them in a variety of situations and decide how they would respond.
You can also build your awareness of emotion and its manifestation in behavior by observing yourself. What sensations do you experience in a particular situation? What actions do you take?
Observe others for outward signs of emotion: shuffling feet, trembling fingers, tightly pressed lips. Listen to voices. Is there a drop in tone? A thickening? A shakiness? In each instance, determine the stimulus and the resulting emotion.
Avoid cliches when showing emotion. Seeking the unique expression will make your characters emerge as individuals rather than as stereotypes.
Labels: Fiction Writing; Writing Techniques: Emotion in Fiction