Handout for Writing to Connect with Readers’ Emotions
ACFW NY/NJ January 2023
By Carrie Turansky
Readers like to be touched, moved, by the story. They like to imagine themselves in worlds and situations that challenge them, that give them opportunity to do and be something other than what they do or are in their real lives. Fiction allows people to not only step into other worlds, but to experience those worlds. To do what they can’t in a normal day. To feel beyond their normal feelings. We want to give readers a powerful emotional experience! Let’s learn how.
- Make your characters sympathetic and relatable.
- Make some characters unsympathetic.
- Don’t name emotions, show them – Show don’t Tell
Example #1 – Sarah’s boyfriend has just broken up with her.
Telling: Sarah could only hold her tears back until she left the restaurant to walk home. She was devastated about the breakup. (This is a summary statement at a very emotional moment. Use summaries for transitions)
Classic Showing: Sarah lifted her chin and blinked back hot tears as she stepped outside the restaurant. Lowering her head, she set off down the sidewalk. Tears stung her eyes despite her best efforts to hold them back. Her throat burned and tightened, and her fingers went numb as she clenched her purse strap.
Going Deeper: Your Point of View character’s actions are only half the story; how they think and react internally is the other half. Let’s look at the showing example from before to see what it looks like with Sarah’s thoughts mixed in.
Sarah lifted her chin and blinked back hot tears as she stepped outside the restaurant. She wouldn’t give John the satisfaction of seeing her cry, not after everything he’d put her through.
Lowering her head, she set off down the sidewalk. Tears stung her eyes despite her best efforts to hold them back. This was the last time she’d trust a man, the last time she’d let herself be so vulnerable.
Her throat burned and tightened, and her fingers went numb as she clenched her purse strap. Marina had been right. She should have listened and taken her words to heart.
- Avoid cliches and strive for fresh writing.
- Plot your story with emotional scenes in mind.
- Showing Emotions in Supporting Characters vs. Point of View Characters.
- Using Thoughts to Convey Emotions without actions.
- Tease the Reader with hints of what is to come.
- The power of word choice to convey emotion.
- Create a situation that’s important, vital, or life altering, if not life threatening.
- Put your character under time constraints.
- Force your character to decide between a bad choice and a worse choice.
- Write realistic scenes with realistic problems.
- Surprise the reader by turning the story in an unexpected direction.
- Write Conflict into every scene.
16. Adjust the pace for the emotion you want to create.
- Reduce unnecessary and unrelated details.
- Use setting to influence the reader and deepen the emotional response.
- Use sensory details to immerse readers in the scene.
20. Don’t Hesitate to mix emotions.
- Add emotion depth as you revise.
If you’d like a copy of my teaching notes for this workshop with the examples, you may email me through the contact page at my website, and I’ll send them to you! Thanks for attending the workshop today. I hope it was helpful for you!
Carrie Turansky – https://carrieturansky.com/