Reading Is Feeling: How Emotions Can Help You Write Better Stories
When we sit down to write a new story, we take care not to neglect anything. Grammar, spelling, structure, fluency, vocabulary, syntax, and all those complicated words. However, if you ask me what a good story cannot lack, there is only one thing: emotions.
You may have a Pulitzer-worthy piece up to your sleeve, perfect in every literary sense, but if it doesn't stir up feelings in the reader, it's like reading a road sign.
Several studies show the great connection that exists between reading and emotions. Children who read from a young age develop greater emotional skills and reading a story can make you feel as if you are living what is happening.
And if you don't believe me, try to remember your favorite book, how it was to read it the first time. What do you remember the most? It's probably not the morphology or the narrative arcs, it's how you felt reading it. The suspense of a King novel, the thrill of an epic battle narrated by Tolkien, or the passion behind a romance like Pride and Prejudice.
So the next time you write a story, focus on how emotions can help you. These tips can help you:
Emotions should be strong but natural
Many amateur writers make the mistake of bombarding each paragraph with hundreds of emotions without justification. The feelings of the characters must be natural, otherwise, they'll feel forced.
You can't make the main character feel terrible pain by realizing that his favorite shirt has shrunk in the dryer. It also wouldn't make sense for two people to just take a date in the park to fall deeply in love.
Reactions and experiences must be consistent and credible. Exaggerating emotions will only ruin your story.
Don't be so basic
Knowing how your character would feel in a specific situation isn't that hard, knowing how to describe it is a bit more tricky.
If you say that Sarah was "sad" because she lost her child, you are being very basic. Explore the spectrum of emotions. You can clarify that Sarah was disconsolate, empty, that her spirit was broken.
Be creative with words, stretch the sensations, and don't limit yourself to the simplest reactions. How you present your emotions is just as important as the power behind them.
Feel from the character, not from the reader
Another very common mistake that happens when writing stories is thinking about the emotions felt by the reader and not the character. This creates that attention is diverted to other less important aspects of the narrative.
Let's say John has a crush on the girl who works at the cafe downtown. He goes every afternoon and orders a decaf, as he really hates coffee, but he orders it just to have an excuse to see the barista. John sits up and can't help but look at her, her deep brown eyes, her tattoos, her dimples at the end of her lips when she smiles.
Do you see what's wrong there?
We assume that the reader understands that John is in love with this girl and we divert attention to describe her, which is important, but we skip explaining how he feels. Why is he in love with the girl? What is it about her that attracts him? Maybe he thinks she's very mysterious, maybe he's intimidated because he's never met anyone like her, or maybe he's captivated by her kindness in a city full of assholes.
Don't take emotions for granted, since without characters there is no one to experience them.
As always: show don't tell
You've heard this a thousand times, but for a reason, it works.
Don't describe emotions robotically, it's not about objectively recognizing how characters feel, it's about proving it.
"She was nervous before entering the job interview" is monotonous, boring, and lifeless.
"Her hands were shaking slightly, she could feel her heart beating out of her chest and she was unable to keep her leg still since that is her dream job and she only had one chance" is expressive and manifests emotions.
Don't just inform the reader about them, show them what it's like to feel in your characters' shoes.
Emotions are your best tool if you want to create stories that catch the reader and keep them waiting for more. Writing is like any art, we read to feel and without emotions, they are just empty words on a blank page.
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