A Post by Kristyn Fetterman, Writestream Contributor
How to add emotion to your writing?
Adding emotion to your writing can be difficult. Finding the right balance of emotions in your writing is tough. When you are writing an emotional scene, you want to make sure you are causing your readers to feel something but you want to avoid it feeling overly dramatic. We all know there is a fine line between having reader soak the pages of your book with their tears and having your reader be put off by an out-of-the-blue melodramatic scene. Don’t worry, these tips can help you figure out what to add in order to have the perfect balance of emotions.
Goals & Motivation
Each of your characters need to have a goal. Without motivation, your character has no place in your story. Use your character’s goals and motivations to add emotion to your tale. Let the world get in the way of your character and their goal. Throw some hurdles in front of them and let your characters fall in order to get an emotional response from readers.
Make sure you are using not only the correct emotions but also the correct level of each emotion. If your character is depressed, avoid describing general sadness. If your character is furious about something, don’t simply show that they are angry. This requires you to expand your emotional vocabulary a little but it will result in stronger emotional scenes.
Show, Don’t Tell
I know, I know, we are all so sick of hearing this but it applies more than ever when it comes to emotions. If you tell your readers that Jane is depressed they are not going to care. If you explain how Jane is unable to get out of bed in the morning and turns down invitations to go out with her friends, you will be able to get your readers to understand how Jane feels rather than telling them. If you do have to ‘tell’, and sometimes (although rarely) it is necessary, do it quickly and subtly.
Body Language & Symptoms
Every day, without even noticing sometimes, we decipher the body language of people around us. We use it to gather and understanding of how they are feeling, so why not do that with characters? Show the readers what your character’s body is doing. If they are nervous, show them that they are fidgeting with their necklace, breathing heavily and talking fast. Along with body language, it can be helpful to show the symptoms of certain emotions. Physical symptoms often accompany strong emotions so, when necessary, give some of these symptoms to your character.
Typically, time works as a major pressure point. Adding pressure will naturally heighten any emotions that come into play. Put some pressure on your story and your character so you won’t have to work so hard to bring the emotions out of your readers.
Spend extra time giving your readers information about your characters, their lives, and their pasts. Doing this will allow readers to have a general understanding of the emotional reaction your character would have to a particular situation. It is also important that you match the character’s emotional reaction to their personality. The character’s reaction has to be realistic for their personality type and history.
Give your characters people, places and things that they have history with. You can use these as symbols to add instant emotion to your story. If the mother of your character comes back into her life after abandoning her, it is going to cause some feelings to come to the surface. If your character has a certain spot they go to, or object they hold in their hand when they are upset, placing them into the story will allow your readers to connect with and understand your character. Just be sure to explain their significance.
Don’t Force It
It is obvious and awkward when emotions are forced in stories. When emotions are forced, readers start to feel like they are reading instead of feeling like they are living the life of your character. Also, you don’t want to drag out emotional scenes because it can get to be too much. Get the point across and then move to the next scene. Yes, your character can still be dealing with the emotional impact but make sure to switch up the scenes.
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