Friday, August 2, 2013

Unearned Emotion Writing Tip 15/100

I've fallen behind a little bit on the writing tips. But never fear, we will catch up.

Today I want to talk about something I call unearned emotions. Let's say you want to start your book with a woman crying over a breakup. Or maybe you want to shock your readers by having your MC's wife get brutally murdered.

The thing you have to be aware of, is that you haven't yet created an emotional link between your reader and your main character. So when I open the book and Sarah is weeping over her lost love, I don't feel her pain, I don't weep with her. In fact, if it goes on very long, I'm really bugged by it. I want to slap your main character and say, "Stop sniveling and get on with the story." Not a good way to hook your readers.

Likewise, if you kill off the protagonist's wife, but we haven't had a chance to see the relationship, it doesn't mean as much to us. I finally got around watching World War Z last night. You see tons of deaths. But none of them mean as much as the deaths of the people we get to know--even if it's for a very short time.

[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN"T SEEN IT] For example, there is the Spanish speaking family the MC and his wife and daughter are briefly taken in and feed by. Just that short connection makes us care much more when the zombie break in their door.[END SPOILER ALERT]

The moral of the story is that if you want us to feel your character's emotions, you need to let us see who they are and what they care about. Then we can care along with them.

1 comment:

David Glenn said...

Very interesting. I'll keep that in mind.