This book gave me “all the feels.”
We all strive to write the quintessential delivery system for “feels,” whether we know it or not, whether we’re consciously striving to deliver, or not. We do this because that’s what drives us to tell stories in the first place. Somewhere along the line—whether it was Vonnegut or Brontë, Irving or Rowling—we all read something that touched a chord and made us say, “Ah. Yes. I’ve been there.”
Or maybe we were too busy blowing our noses to get those actual words out, but you get the idea.
So what can you as a writer do to elicit more empathic reactions from your readers than detached ones? Writing emotional scenes has less to do with the scene itself and more to do with tapping into universal experiences and the emotions that go with them. Not many people (if any at all) will have experienced the exact scene you are writing and be able to connect to it. But all people have experienced some sort of loss, triumph, grief, disappointment, or love.
Empathy creates a bond. When you as the writer find your empathy for the character, chances are you will create an empathetic bond between your reader and the character, as well. Therefore, if you find yourself in a scene that is so much bigger (emotionally) in your head than it is coming out on the page, take a step back. Identify the emotion you are going for, then recall the last time you felt that way yourself.
Confession time. I talk the big talk. Walking it is a whole lot harder. I come from a long line of stiff-upper-lipped Scandinavians who settled in the Midwest. Stoicism is a virtue; “not too bad,” is high praise. My natural reaction to writing an emotional scene is to pull back. Getting in there and feeling right along with my character seems very rude and more than a tad voyeuristic. Good manners tells me to fade the scene to black. But I know in my phlegmatic Midwestern heart, that this won’t do for storytelling. So I make a list. [Read more…]