Creating Emotion in Your Writing

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Today I’m talking about creating emotion in your writing. (Note: Much of what I’m discussing comes from or was motivated by Robin Wells’ “Under Their Skin” Workshop given at RWA’s 2009 Conference.)

Every writer aims to get the reader emotionally involved in the story. An emotionally involved reader is one who will likely come back to you as an author. So how to create this necessary emotion in your writing?

Writing with Detail

Writing is all about the details. Readers want to experience the story as they read it, and it’s the details that allow them to do that. Detailed writing engages the senses. It’s the oft-mentioned showing instead of telling.

So what parts of your story should be written with significant detail? Anything that:

  1. Builds tension or conflict
  2. Establishes your character’s personalities
  3. Evokes a memory (a past experience that shapes the character)
  4. Gives the story greater depth
  5. Hints to your book’s theme
  6. Means something to the character

A few tips on using detail in your writing:

  • If something is going to be important later on in the story, allude to it earlier on. If the heroine will need to shoot a home intruder, find a way to mention the gun in her nightstand earlier on so it doesn’t come out of the blue.
  • The sense of smell is a strong way to evoke a memory.
  • The things your character notices about others can say a lot about his or her current mood or overall personality.
  • Make sure your details don’t bore your reader. A bored reader will put down your book and most likely won’t come back for more.
  • Remember, you don’t have to do this all in your first draft! Adding detail can always be accomplished in later drafts.

Can you think of anything in particular that engages your emotions when reading a novel?

For me, it’s jealousy (read: major conflict). Whether it’s the hero or heroine, create a situation whereby one of them has reason to be jealous, and I’m hooked. That’s why I particularly enjoy reading about love triangles. Smile

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17 thoughts on “Creating Emotion in Your Writing

    Ciara Knight said:
    January 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Great post! It just has to be well written. I love major conflict!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

      Me too, Ciara. LOVE conflict. That’s why I majorly heart Jeaniene Frost. Aspire to write conflict like that. *sigh*

    Rachel Firasek said:
    January 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I love heartbreak. Twist and torture a heroine, or even better a hero and I’m hooked. I want to cry with them, so the emotions have to be there.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

      Heartbreak is a powerful thing. I think that’s why I love the emotion of jealousy. You’re toying with possible heartbreak. How will things resolve themselves between the two characters?

    Katalina Leon said:
    January 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I love your posts, and they seem to come along just at the exact moment I need a little nudge in the right direction.
    Thank you Rosalie!
    XXOO Kat

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 10:20 am

      Oh thanks, Kat! I’m so happy to hear you say that. We all need a nudge sometimes, so it’s great to know I can nudge others every now and again. 🙂

    claudia celestial girl said:
    January 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

    It’s such a tricky thing. I love details, but I get a lot of comments that I’m boring my readers. I also think it’s part of one’s voice – what types of things you notice, and how you ‘show.’ I haven’t found the balance yet. As to conflict – I love injustice. That’ll grab me everytime: wrongly accused, or persecuted! (I’m starting to cry already. 😉

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 10:53 am

      You’re right, Claudia. There’s a delicate balance, and I think it requires a lot of tweaking to get it right. I hate having to tweak *sigh*, but I guess that’s what writing’s all about. 🙂

    hales said:
    January 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I love jealousy but I also love ramping tension through daily life with normal actions that interupt what the hero and heroine want. Family, Job, life what makes them who they are and less likely to settle just for because, having to overcome things we might think are small but when looked at pieced together are huge issues 🙂

    If you want an example I’ll share 🙂

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      I think I see what you’re getting at Hales, but if you’d like to share please do! Examples are always good. 🙂

        hales said:
        January 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm

        Sure I’m on a WIP now where the heroine grew up the oldest of 7 siblings so much of her childhood was early responsibility, not really having any time to herself, she’s still young mid twenties, went to college began her own business but because she was thrust into the big sister roll values her privacy and has issues with commitment due to not wanting to give up her personal space and at the same time is obsessed with success and attaing a higher financial status before marriage. Simply put 2.5 kids a dog, house with a fence and a man is out til lord knows when, her boyfriend an businessman and owner feels different. 🙂 So their issues stem from her I want my space and mixed culture issues she’s black he’s white we say so what but some families don’t like race mixing. There is great sexual tension though 🙂

    Kelley said:
    January 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Great post. I agree that jealousy is a strong emotion and can create conflict.
    Like anything you add to your story, balance is the key. I am still trying to get this perfect.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks, Kelley. Balance…such an important word when it comes to writing. It’s all about getting the right balance. Easy to say, really, really hard to do! 🙂

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    January 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I especially love your first tip. Great post. You are such a wonderful teacher.

    laradunning said:
    January 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    As always a great post! Thanks!

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