Monday, May 14, 2012

Engaging Emotions

The past two novels I’ve read have been about the real life romances of historical characters. One was the debut novel of talented author Alexa Schnee, Shakespeare’s Lady. The other was a historical novel by Diane Haeger, about the secret wife of George IV. Both novels ended, ironically enough, with the heroine visiting the hero while he was on his deathbed. Needless to say, they were bittersweet and left the reader feeling slightly sad. At least I was.

Although you might not want to end with a tear-jerker deathbed scene, your novel should be full of emotion. Jam packed with it. Every emotion possible. Engage your reader  through their emotions and your novels will earn a permanent place on their keeper shelf.

Here are a few tips.
1 - Don’t be afraid to let your characters suffer and suffer a lot. This is what makes for good writing. Both novels above covered a wide scope of emotions and feelings and covered them well. If a chapter doesn’t leave you feeling something, cut it. Hopefully you still have some chapters left when you’re done.

2 - Give your novel a bittersweet ending. Although in some genres, a happy ending is a must, it doesn’t have to be Pollyannaesque. For example, in a category romance, the main characters’ story must end happily, but the secondary characters’ romance doesn’t. I would love to write a novel where the hero and heroine’s story doesn’t end happily. Blame it on all those Edith Wharton novels I read.

3 – Make your happy ending well deserved. Before you give your novel a happy ending make sure the characters have been tormented to the fullest. There’s nothing worse than reading a novel and when it ends, realizing the ending wasn’t moving. Often the reason is due to the fact that the characters haven’t endured enough trials to get to the place they are at the novel’s end.

To engage the reader’s emotions, yours must be engaged as well. Now I admit, I don’t laugh and cry throughout every single scene I write, but there are those scenes where I’m doing both. My characters are as real to me as the actual people I live with, and to hear me talk, you’d think they were. J
Try an experiment. Ask your critique partners, beta readers, etc. what they are feeling while reading your novel. Hopefully, they don’t say ‘nothing’. This will clue you in to those areas where the emotion you want is coming across and to those where it is lacking.

In a nutshell. If your characters aren’t suffering, and you aren’t suffering right along with them, chances are the reader won’t be turning pages

Happy Writing,

Your Turn –Have you had any extremely emotional reading experiences? What techniques did the author use?

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