To give emotional punch, a writer has to make the reader feel something (other than irritation or annoyance at the crass plotting or stupid characters!). When I read a book I want to be made to laugh, cry or get so thrilled by what I’m reading I can hardly turn the pages fast enough. I want to be so immersed in the world of the story that I forget I’m reading.
One way a writer can do this is by letting their readers view the world from inside their character’s skin. This is known as “deep point of view”
There are many great articles on the web about deep point of view, but here are four tips of mine to help you stir your readers’ emotions.
1) Show don’t tell.
You will hear this a lot if you’re a new writer. For example: “He felt a blast of cold air as he walked through the door” is telling. The words “he felt” distances the reader from the character. Rewritten in deep point of view would be something along the lines of: “He walked through the back door and gasped as the frosty air slapped him in the face like an outraged lover.”
The use of strong verbs such as “slapped” makes it more vivid for the reader. You could also substitute a stronger word for walked, such as burst or strode to evoke a different feel to the sentence.
2) Empathise don’t sympathise with your character.
This is really a continuation of number 1). Sympathy is when you see someone fall over and you think “oh that must have hurt” Empathy is when you see someone fall over and you really feel their pain. I remember years ago we were at a family barbeque in a forest and my younger son slipped on loose gravel and fell flat on his front. Being a tough teenager at the time, he leapt to his feet and brushed himself down hiding the fact that it must have hurt like hell, but I really felt his pain; it haunted me long after his grazes healed.
3) Use your own experiences to write emotions authentically.
I recommend you get into the habit of carrying a journal around with you and whenever you feel an emotion whether it’s joy, sadness, fear, anger, try and train yourself to capture in words exactly how it feels. What’s going on in your head? In your body? Emotions generally have a physical presence. When I’m really disappointed about something I get an ache at the back of my throat. When I’m excited I get a lovely tingling sensation in the pit of my stomach. If the emotion is negative you may find writing it down helps ease the pain.
4) Listen to stirring music
I find if I listen to something romantic I get warm gooey feelings inside which naturally flows through to the words I’m writing. Listening to Andrea Bocelli singing in Italian does that to me. I’ve also started listening to movie music because movie scores are often written to emphasise the particular mood of that part of the movie.
I’d love to hear of any other suggestions you can think of.