I am sure you heard the phrase before that people will not remember exactly what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel, right?
It is absolutely true. If you manage to touch the emotional strings in people, you have a hook in their heart.
Helen Keller rightfully said that “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
A friend of mine shared a story once which stayed with me. It was during a hurricane warning, and people, including her, were flooding the stores trying to get their hands on all the essentials.
As she was walking through the aisles looking for just some basics, like water and coffee she noticed that in the yogurt aisle, there was only one yogurt left!
She was a bit perplexed, and later was asked me if yogurt is such an essential food item.
What if electricity goes out during the hurricane?
Where were these people planning on storing the yogurt?
So the yogurt let us to the discussion of human behavior.
We concluded that humans are irrational, and that in times of major stress or major joy we let our emotions dictate our behavior.
What does all these have to do with writing?
It is your job as a writer to be able to create intense emotion in your readers.
In this article we are will cover tips that can stir an emotional response in your readers.
Sparking joy in your readers does not mean having them smile from ear to ear, it simply means hooking them emotionally. Whether you want to make them feel sad, or happy, or excited that depends on your assignment and your style.
So let’s get to it.
We all dealt with conflict. People relate to conflict and they usually take sides too. We invest a lot of emotion in situation with conflict and it is the core of the greatest stories ever told.
Conflict creates tension, and your job as a writer is to make sure the reader connects with the conflict and gets invested emotionally.
Therefore when you are writing for a wide audience, keeping your conflict situations a bit general will allow you to connect with most of your readers.
Examples of popular conflict scenarios:
- Work conflict
- Love conflict
- Friendship conflict
Most of us have experience or will experience one, if not more. scenarios from the short list above.
It is safe to assume that if you choose to include a common experience in your writing, you can count on some emotion from your readers.
For suspense, let’s use a movie as an example.
Imagine a scenario where two friends are having a conversation and one of them admits to her friend that she is cheating on her husband.
Now let the scene zoom out and show the husband telling his best friend that he just bought his wife the house of her dreams.
Here you have a situation where there is clear suspense.
Will she leave him?
Will she lie and stay with him while continue to cheat?
Did you as a writer give her wonderful qualities so the audience is willing to forgive her?
Is she a total disaster and your audience wants to shout out loud to the guy that he is a fool?
The rules of conflict and suspense apply to mystery as well.
You need to create an air of mystery that your reader cares about.
Depending on what you are writing about, and if you know your audience you can pick and choose from a wide range of possible mysteries.
Conspiracy theories are loved by all!
Even people who laugh and make fun of you for being so imaginative, believe me, they go home at night and before they sleep “ what ifs” swim in their brains.
Or you can opt for daily mysteries that shape the characters in your stories.
Here is a good example:
- Johnny does not eat Chinese food.
This is a simple statement and it just gives us basic information about a character.
- Johnny does not eat Chinese food any more.
Now we know that something happened that has caused the character to not eat Chinese food.
Just by adding ‘any more’ we gave an air of mystery and hooked the reader to feel something.
- Johnny does not eat Chinese food. He blames Mary for that.
Now we are switching gears, and we are adding more characters to the mix, and not only we are adding a new character, we are immediately blaming her for Johnny’s new lifestyle choice.
Some other good general suggestions to stir an emotional response include:
- Create either an extremely likeable or unlikeable protagonist
- Force your character to make a difficult choice between bad and worse
- Kill characters off (yes a little Game of Thrones never hurt anyone)
- Throw hints in your story to lead your readers on
- Choose your words wisely
- Don’t be afraid to mix emotions, it is ok for the reader to feel sad and happy in the same scene
- Show do not tell (this is always a preferred way to communicate with audiences and in real life as well)
Have fun in the process and remember the world runs on emotion.