How do we get pulled into these stories so much that we feel the character's pain and joy as if it were our own?
Writers use all sorts of tricks to lure you in. One minute you're blissfully enjoying an escape from your own reality, and the next you notice tears falling onto your jeans or your pillow getting soaked. Or you find yourself so irritated with a fictional person that you can't stop reading until the tension eases.
How do they do it?
How do they do it?
|How does Jojo Moyes do it?|
And what can I do to make my readers root for my characters?
My quest to find out has confirmed what I already knew: there's nothing magic about it. It's not a gift that you just have. It's not a magic pill (sadly). It's not about waiting for the muse.
Instead, it is hard work, it requires constant reflection, rewriting and editing, and - maybe most importantly - being brave enough to explore your own emotions.
It's also reading and re-reading your favourite novels with your analytical writer brain switched on and not being sucked into those pesky emotions.
(Fifty-nine pages down the track you find yourself fully immersed in the story - again! - instead of analysing your favourite writer's use of language, imagery and other secret tricks he or she may use unbeknownst to you.)
As I looked for inspiration on how to increase the emotional resonance in my readers, I came across the following helpful writing websites:
Creating emotion in the reader by The Editor's Blog
I like this article as it gives 18 examples on how to increase emotion in your writing. I particularly like the suggestion of putting your characters under time constraints to cause them to make decisions they might not ordinarily make.
How to create a strong emotional response in your reader by CS Lakin
In this guest post by Jackie Johansen, we are encouraged to dig into our own experience. If we want our readers to feel emotions, we as writers have to experience them. Delve into your own past to tap into the emotions before you write. Let them pour onto your page, and hopefully, your reader will feel them.
Writing for emotional impact by Emerging Writers Studio
Nanci Panuccio lets neuroscientist Paul MacLean explain how emotions affect our limbic brain. She then unpacks a moving piece of writing by Elizabeth McCracken to illustrate four ways to write for emotional impact.
The emotional and psychological world of you and your characters by The Writers Store
A very helpful screenwriting exercise to access your own emotions before giving them to your characters. This article also includes an interesting Emotions 101 which explains how we can start our writing by asking us "How does it make you feel?" with the four basic emotions sad, bad, mad and glad. SBMG. Easy to remember!
Writing beyond good: Creating emotional resonance by The Missouri Review
This explains the difference between emotions (what your characters are feeling) and emotional resonance (evoking in the reader the emotions your characters are feeling), and how to achieve the latter.
The 5 secrets of grabbing your readers' emotions by Helping Writers Become Authors
I like number four of this list: Self-sacrifice is extremely powerful. KL Weiland writes that "Making characters suffer is one thing; making them choose to suffer because it's the right thing to do is another plane altogether."
5 ways to create emotional connection between your readers and your characters by Meek Geek
A very useful explanation on how to use the concept of "Uncontrollable Circumstances" to form the powerful emotional connection between your reader and your characters.
Get pushy - Push character conflict and reader emotion by The Editor's Blog
The two most important attributes that every scene needs to have according to this post: character conflict and reader emotion. This is a very detailed post on how to edit each scene for these non-negotiables.
I hope these links will prove as useful to you as they have to me. I am still working on how to make my next novel "Teaching Tom" gut-wrenching, tear-jerking and happiness-invoking. I'll let you know when I think I've achieved it!