I’ve done a lot of emotion-centered posts in the last week or so, 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. 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 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? Feelings.
This brings me to today’s point: You are the curator of your reader’s feelings. 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. 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 scene to scene.
Does this make you feel like a puppet master? Good! That’s called “writing.”