Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Add Emotions to Your Story

"Add Emotions to Your Story" by Joan Y. Edwards

Add emotions to your story. There has to be an emotional pull to get your reader to stay for the whole book. The reader has to relate to the characters in your story. If the reader doesn't feel a reason to be curious about what happens to your main character he closes your book. He has to care about what happens to him so much that he can't put the book down. He has to feel this burning desire to find out what happens to him. If the manuscript you've written isn't the best seller you had in mind, perhaps emotion is missing from it. Revamp your manuscript and let the emotions come to the surface.

Think about how you would feel if you were actually the main character in your story. What would you be afraid of? What would make you sad? What would make you so angry you'd lose your temper? What would disappoint you? What would make you so happy that you'd dance around your house seven times? Put these emotions into your story. It'll come alive. The emotions give your reader a reason to like the character and care what happens. It pulls your reader into your story at the beginning and he'll stay with you to find out what happens along the way. He'll turn the pages and anxiously anticipate what happens at the very end.

Writers know in their heads what the characters are feeling. The problem comes in describing it in the story so that readers know without a doubt what's going on and can relate to them. You want them to have compassion for them. Be angry with them. Cheer them on through their next problem until they reach their goal. The reader wants to hear more and more about that character in the story, as if he was a real person.

Donald Maass in a workshop at the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference in 2010 said you must have tension in your story. The dialogue and the descriptions have to show both sides of the picture. Your story must show how the character is pulled in two directions. First, believe they can get the job or goal. Second, believe there is no way they can get the job or reach the goal. The main character mayt have doubts because of the way he fouled it up last time.

Inside our heads every day, we have at least 50,000 thoughts. We have these opposite points of view that creates tension in our lives. So do the characters in your story. Show they're human. Share their thoughts. Their thoughts depict their emotions. Give your character one big strength and one big weakness, or give them one small strength and show its growth through your story. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Our humanity is what we have in common with other people.  Readers are hungry to interact with the characters in your story. So fill your story with tension and emotion.


  1. I've encountered getting my characters feelings from my brain onto "paper".

    Brilliant post! I have Donald Maass's "Writing the Breakout Novel" book and workbook. Excellent tools.

    Thanks, Joan, for another excellent post.

  2. Dear Melanie,
    I'm so glad to hear from you. I know what you mean about getting your character's feelings from your brain onto "paper." When you write your draft, you think, "Yeah. I've got it. I did it. It's there." Then when you read it a week or so later, you're like, "Where did all that emotion go? I said that the character was happy. What more do they want?"
    Actually, they want to know what she did to show she was happy.
    But think of it this way. How great is it that we find these things out in the draft so we can get to the real nitty gritty emotions and tension of the story.
    Thanks for the compliment about my posts. I'm bowing humbly.
    Do something to celebrate your gift of writing today.

    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Thanks, Joan. I've started the promotion on Twitter, FB, and +1.

  4. Dear Vivian,
    You're very welcome.Thanks for starting the promotion on Twitter, FB, and +1.

  5. Joan,
    Great tips! There's an art to showing both points of view of a character and getting readers emotionally attached. There's a skill to it too. Thanks for helping us with both.

  6. Dear Linda,
    You're welcome for the blog post. Thanks for the compliment. You're right, it is indeed an art and skill to be able to show both positive and negative points of view of a character and getting readers emotionally attached. Good luck with all your writing projects.

    Joan Y. Edwards

  7. Joan, great information. I usually try to put myself in the characters' place, it does help.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  8. Dear Karen,
    Thanks for stopping by. Thank you for the compliment. I'm glad that trying to put yourself in the character's place helps make the emotions shine in your writing.
    Good luck with all your writing projects.

    Joan Y. Edwards