Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Writer Wednesday--Making Your Readers FEEL

Readers love to feel—experience emotions right along with your characters, but giving them that experience takes effort and practice.  I have a couple of suggestions to help increase the effectiveness of this.

1.  Write about things you’ve experienced, or where possible, give yourself the experience.  For example, if your character is going sky diving, it may help you describe the scene and the emotions (I'm thinking FEAR would be a big one here) if you go sky diving yourself.  Where possible, stick to things that you can adequately portray.

2.  Write in the Moment
Trying to show that your character is down in the dumps may be difficult if you are experiencing a different emotion--say intense anger or euphoria.  I find it helpful to keep an emotions notebook.  When you're experiencing something emotional, write about it so it's available when you have a character going through something similar.  Your emotional writing will be deeper and more meaningful.

3.  Avoid Passive Voice
A writing friend of mine made me aware of this and it has been an immensely helpful tool.  Passive voice uses the words "was," "had" and "felt" more than necessary.  Below are some examples of passive and non-passive voice.
I was tired.  (Passive)
Exhaustion crept inside me, beginning at my eyelids and spreading with relentless tentacles until it reached every cell in my body, as if trying to swallow me whole.  (Non-passive)

I felt scared.  (Passive)
A cloud of anxiety seized my chest, freezing me in place—all of me, that is, except my heart, which jumped into a rhythmic hammering.  I wondered if it would ever calm down again.  (Non-passive)

Which would you rather read?  Which gives you a greater emotional experience?



Emily R. King said...

Great examples. I think a strong voice helps me connect with the characters, so as the plot drags us along, I feel what the characters feel. If I don't connect with a character, I don't care what happens to him. (Sad, but true.)

Melissa Lemon said...

It might be sad if they were real people. That's the writer's job--to make you care.

Kelly said...

I never thought about it that way! Cool!

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

Writing makes getting sick, feeling depressed, and feeling angry so worthwhile doesn't it? We can always use whatever we're going through to make the story better.