If you don’t master showing and evoking emotion in your fiction, you fail as a writer. It’s as simple as that.
Emotional mastery is essential for fiction writers. Yet, there is hardly any instruction on the topic. A book or two. A blog post here and there. But nothing extensively dealing with two critical skills fiction writers MUST master: how to effectively show emotion in characters and how to powerfully evoke emotion in readers.
This is not easy to learn. Few writers excel in these skills. But those who do—who show and evoke emotion masterfully—write moving stories that are timeless and long remembered.
Think about some of the books you read years ago that have lingered long in your soul. Stories like To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone with the Wind. You know the stories you love and why you love them. They moved you. They changed you. They may have even rocked your world.
Face it: fiction writers have one goal: to get readers to respond. Whether it’s to scare them, make them tense, excited, thrilled, ecstatic, or angry (you fill in the blanks), they need to know how to do this and do it well.
We writers don’t just want our readers to respond; we want them to respond in very specific ways. And we can’t know what those ways are unless we understand how emotions work in fiction. How masterful writers use body language and internal sensations and thoughts to create a mood and imply complex feelings.
Did I mention that this is not easy?
It’s really amazing, if you stop to think about it. Readers will willingly suspend disbelief and subject themselves to the gamut of emotion, making themselves vulnerable to intense feelings.
Some readers read for the suspenseful ride. Like my husband and kids, who eagerly climb into seats on real roller coasters—they’ll even wait two hours to experience a two-minute ride just to get scared out of their wits. Some readers are perfectly fine crying, feeling miserable, or aching in commiseration as they go on a difficult journey with a fictional character they love.
Fictional, not real.
Why do so many people love to do this? I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. There is something wonderful, magical, and sublime about being made to feel deeply about something outside my normal life. Stories that remind me of what being human is all about, what love is, what loyalty is, what hope is, what being victorious looks like lift me up, confirm my humanity, bring deeper meaning to my own life.
Seeing that we have readers willing to experience emotion when they turn the pages of our novels—no, not willing … expecting, hoping, and longing for an emotional experience—we writers need to become masterful wielders of emotion.
Writers Have to Dig Deep
That’s not an easy thing to do. It takes thousands of hours of study, practice, and honing to become a master of emotion. And often that means we have to mine our own emotions. We have to dig deep to reflect on how we react, respond, and feel emotionally to events, people, and situations so that we can try to capture those feelings and transfer them onto the page.
That’s the advice Hemingway gave, and it’s the best advice I’ve seen on the emotional craft of fiction: “Find what gave you the emotion . . . Then write it down, making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling as you had.”
Hemingway’s advice gives us the first step to learning how to manipulate readers’ emotions. In addition to examining how you emotional react to things you see around you or on TV, pay attention to those moments when you feel strongly while reading a novel.
Instead of thinking, “I want my reader to feel sad,” how much more masterful would it be to dig deep into the many emotional nuances we experience when any given event occurs.
Do what Hemingway instructed. When you feel something, write down what action took place that made you emote. Then dig into the emotions and learn not just why you feel this way but what exactly you are feeling. What thoughts led you to those feelings? If you can nail the thoughts, which are words, you can put similar thoughts (words) into your narrative and character’s voice.
That’s the first step toward evoking emotion in readers in a masterful way.
I’m excited to announce the launch of my new intensive online video course: Emotional Mastery for Fiction Writers. The course will open at full price on September 1, but if you enroll in the course now (this month, August), you can get half off with this coupon code:EARLYBIRD.
I have scoured the internet and bookstores for years, and I’ve never found anything about the nuts and bolts and mechanics to showing emotion and evoking emotion. Not this deep. Not this practical. Not this concise in the methodology. The how-to.
I want to encourage you to take the plunge and try out this course. Remember, all my online video courses at cslakin.teachable.com have a30-day money-back guarantee! So you have NOTHING to lose and a whole lot of skills and insight to gain by taking this course.
Here’s some of what the course covers:
- The 3 key ways to show emotion in your characters and which one is the most powerful
- What the action-reaction cycle is all about, and why you must understand it to be an emotional master
- Why you need to manipulate your readers’ emotions, and why that’s a good thing
- How to recognize complex emotion and transfer that onto the page
- What microtension is, and why it’s essential for emotional mastery
- Ways to craft mood that will evoke emotion in readers
- How to work at the word, phrase, and sentence level to masterfully convey emotion
- How to find the perfect balance of showing and telling emotion in your characters
- How to deconstruct masterful writing that evokes and shows emotion and emulate the effect in your own scenes
This course is jam-packed with excerpts from novels, movie clips, handouts, and assignments over 12 modules and many hours of instruction—all designed to help you become an emotional master!
This essential instruction is not available anywhere else. There are no books, podcasts, blog posts, or courses that tackle this topic and to this depth. Few writing instructors teach anything pertaining to the emotional craft of fiction. Yet, it is just as important—if not more so—than a great plot or compelling characters.
I’m super excited about this course. I believe it will help you master the toughest skill a fiction writer has to acquire. Are you ready to take the challenge? Sign up now!
Remember, the course will NOT open or be live until September 1. I will send enrollees an email to give them the green light to jump in. And you have lifetime access. Tell your writer friends and spread the word. Become a master of emotion so you can write moving stories!