I’ve done a lot of emotion-centered posts about character feelings and writing emotional scenes, and that’s because I am coming around, more and more, to the idea that the reader’s feelings are paramount in writing good fiction. One of the cornerstones of my teaching philosophy is, after all, interiority, which is the practice of getting deeply into character feelings.
Writing Emotional Scenes is Reader Crack
If you can’t make the reader feel (this comes in large part from first being able to deeply feel your own story), then you are sunk. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey aren’t novels, per se, they are 400 solid pages of character feelings (longing, in the same of Twilight, desire/curiosity/revulsion in the case of Shades). For me, both of them sunk their hooks into me (and about 40 million other people) so deep that I would constantly look up from the books, thinking, “This is such crap … and I can’t stop reading it!” Why? Character feelings. Emotional scenes. They are all that matter.
This brings me to today’s point: You are the curator of your reader’s feelings via character feelings and writing emotional scenes. How do you cue your reader’s emotions? With your characters’. Via their Interiority (thoughts, reactions), you lead your reader’s own thoughts, reactions, and feelings along the path of story that you’ve constructed.
A big pet peeve–and what inspired this post–is a character saying “I didn’t know how to feel right then” (or the equivalent). This is a cop-out. You need to be writing active character reaction. Guide the reader. Sure, “not knowing how to feel” or “feeling lost” is a valid emotion, but it’s a missed opportunity if you lean on it too hard. Instead, conjure up two or three really specific feelings that, when mixed together, convey a sense of being lost without ever dropping the emotional ball for your reader. Always be guiding them, and always keep in mind the emotions you are creating from moment to moment and, and writing emotional scenes, scene to scene.
Does this make you feel like a puppet master with character feelings and reader emotions? Good! That’s called “writing.”
Is your manuscript falling flat? Work with me as your developmental editor and we can get the most “emotional juice” out of your project.