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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

10 More of the Best Tips for Evoking Emotion Through Your Writing

HelloOoOo everybody!


Today we’re talking about emotion in fiction . . . again. You guys probably know I made a video all about how to evoke emotion through your writing a while ago. However, I had so many points to cover I decided to divide this topic in two. If you haven't watched my first video, check it out! I covered 10 tips for creating an emotional reaction in your reader, and today I'm dishing out 10 more tips on evoking emotion through your writing. Let's get to it!



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Number 1: Unreliable Narrators

When people hear the term “unreliable narrator,” they think of a narrator who lies to the reader. But there are other, subtler ways that a narrator can be unreliable that'll also enhance the emotion of a novel. For example, it's human nature to exaggerate or embellish. Maybe your character is sitting in a boring meeting, and rather than say, “The meeting is boring,” the narrator states, “A million years later, the meeting finally ended.” The reader knows “a million years” is an exaggeration, but that statement conveys the absolute perfect emotion of the scene: boredom.


Similarly, it's human nature to have opinions, whether they're factual or not. If your character is talking to someone they hate, rather than having the narrator say, “She hated this woman,” the narrator could refer to the woman as “the bitch.” This creates emotion in a single word without any effort because the narrator is being human.


Number 2: Silence

If you really want to punch your reader in the gut, silence is the way to do it. I don't mean literal silence. I mean hard, abrupt stops at points of high intensity, suspense, or tension. These abrupt stops can be reflected in scene breaks or a chapter that ends in a cliffhanger. The reader is just about to learn who the killer is and . . . just kidding! Chapter’s over.


Another example is a brief or abrupt line within the scene itself. The character is running toward her father, she wants so badly to protect him from the gunfire, and then a stream of bullets pierces his chest. The next line is a very short four words: “She was too late.” Sometimes there is power in brevity, and if you're going for a wind-sucked-out-of-your-lungs kind of feel, this is the way to do it.


Number 3: Utilize the Setting

A lot of people assume that the only way to express emotion is through the characters, and that is completely false. The setting, or your character’s interpretation of the setting, can do a lot to convey emotion. Some people love the rain! They describe it as cleansing or fresh. This creates a vibe of optimism, maybe even rebirth or redemption. The same rain can be described as gloomy. A dreary downpour that's coming from a grey sky. This creates the exact opposite emotion. It's depressing. Think about how the character is envisioning the world around them, and describe the setting using the correct emotional tone.


Number 4: Shut the Fuck Up

It's helpful to utilize the setting, but overloading the reader with lots of irrelevant details is the quickest way to suck the emotion right out of the scene. In my first video on this topic, I mentioned a book I was reading where a woman discovers that she was kidnapped, and right after discovering she was kidnapped, she describes the weather and how it would be the perfect day for gardening. This is a bad idea for a few reasons, and one of them is because it creates an instant tonal shift. She’s been drugged, she's in danger, why are we talking about sunshine and vegetables? It's likely the author just wanted to set the scene, but they could have easily done that without describing the weather, which was irrelevant to the character’s situation. Delete the stuff that doesn’t matter in order to avoid tonal shifts and emotional disconnection.


Number 5: Get Inside Your Body

This is a piece of advice I've been giving for years, and guess what? Shit's still relevant. All of us feel physical reactions to emotion. They affect us in a visceral way. Think about how emotions physically impact you, or how they might impact your character, and describe it. Obvious examples are when a person's gut sinks. This is a very common reaction to disappointment or dread. Another popular example is goosebumps, or when the hair on the back of your neck stands on end. This is a normal reaction to nerves, fear, or excitement. Some emotions create a feeling of pain in your chest, a tightness in your muscles, or a strain in your lungs. Capturing these reactions will go a long way to making your reader feel emotionally connected to the moment.


Number 6: Relatability

It's a hell of a lot easier to get your readers emotionally invested in a story if you're writing about a relatable, sympathetic character. Relatable means your character has traits or struggles that your readers can identify with. Sympathetic means they have traits or struggles that your reader can feel feelings about. When you make your characters relatable, readers can see themselves in their position. When you make your characters sympathetic, readers can root for them, and both of these trigger an emotional connection. This doesn't mean the character has to be perfect. In fact, that's the quickest way to make them un-relatable. But crafting your character to have struggles that readers can relate to, or at the very least sympathize with, is a tried-and-true method for making your readers root for the character, and thus become emotionally invested in their story.


Crafting your character to have struggles that readers can relate to, or at the very least sympathize with, is a tried-and-true method for making your readers root for the character, and thus become emotionally invested in their story.

Number 7: Be Realistic

“But Jennaaa, I want to write about wizards and dragons. I don't want to write about real stuff!”


That's not what we're talking about, dummy! The details and setting of your story can be magical and fantastical, but your character’s traits, struggles, reactions, and of course, emotions, need to be realistic. It's not good form to write about a character taking an action, or having a reaction, that wouldn’t realistically happen based on their background or experience. It also means they need to react to the circumstances of the story in a realistic fashion. This is why so many readers complain about insta-love or the all-powerful hero. These things are unrealistic. And most importantly, when you remove the element of realism, readers are reminded that this plot is completely fake, and thus their emotional bond to the story is severed.


Number 8: Up the Stakes

The higher the stakes, the easier it is to evoke emotion in your reader. If the character is at risk of losing their job, that's bad. If they're at risk of losing their entire family, that's a whole lot worse. That's not to say your book needs a life-or-death conflict, it's just that it's a lot easier to get your readers emotionally invested if that's the case. It's also not to say that all you need are higher stakes because if your character isn't sympathetic or your writing isn't evocative, it won’t matter how high the stakes are. The point is, you can use stakes to your advantage to up the emotional intrigue. If your stakes aren't that high, there are still ways to make them feel a lot more urgent and important. For example, you can set a time limit. She absolutely needs a fake boyfriend before the wedding date, and worse, it's only a week away! Tick-tock, motherfucker! Or add pressure through secondary characters. He absolutely has to pass this exam or his overbearing father will never forgive him!


Number 9: Actions

In anything you write, your character is gonna take action. It’s something that sentient creatures often do. But the actions your characters take go a long way in expressing their emotions. We already discussed dialogue in my first video on this topic, but sometimes people don't talk about how they feel–they act. It could be something overt. A character is enraged, so they punch a wall–or a face. A character is terrified, so they run. These are very direct ways to convey emotion without stating it. You don't have to, because it's very clear how the character is feeling.


Number 10: Think About YOUR Emotions

Because you’re a person. You feel feelings, right? If you're ever confused about how to evoke emotion in a scene or what kind of emotion to convey, think about your own emotions. How would you be feeling in the character's position? This is not to say the character should be a reflection of you–we are all different people and we react to things differently, but it's at least a starting point. It'll help you when you're in a bind and give you some direction for how to properly convey emotion within a scene.


So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

I could probably make a zillion more lists about this because there are a ton of ways to evoke emotion in your writing. The key is to be conscious of it. Understand that your readers want to feel something. That’s why they picked up the book! So don't let ’em down.


 

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