The Alchemy of Emotion: 6 Key Strategies for Emotionally Affecting Fiction

Image: six flat triangular stones arranged in a circle, with a small round stone at their center” six triangular stones” by Jos van Wunnik is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today’s post is by regular contributor Susan DeFreitas( @manzanitafire ), an award-winning author, editor, and journal coach-and-four. She offers a first 50 -page review on works in progress for novelists aiming tendency on their next gradation toward publishing.

People sometimes talk about emotion in myth like it’s some discrete capacity you can just dial up in your prose–like perhaps if your novel is too plot-heavy, or too cerebral, you can just turn a few grips now there are still and wind up with an emotionally affecting story.

The most obvious gauges of sensation are found in scene, so this is where newer writers tend to focus in their seek, interlarding their scenes with the body language associated with emotion–the pounding natures, the sweaty entrusts, the wintries up the spine–along with overt statements of emotion( “walking into the meeting, he felt nervous”) and a superiority of adverbs( “she snarled angrily” ).

The body language of passion is important–and certainly, there are times when overt statements of emotion are used to call. And personally speaking, I’m not in the “no adverbs” camp( though I do think they tend to backfire in the pass of less known scribes ). But these are just the most obvious techniques for generating emotion in fiction, and relying too heavily on them tends to have the opposite of the intended effect, coming across as cartoonish, overdone, forced.

There are techniques that are subtler, less obvious, and they work best in tandem with one another. Because the truth is, passion is an emergent property of fiction, a kind of alchemical sorcery generated by the synergy between multiple elements of the narration; to create it in your fiction, you need to approach the challenge from more than one angle.

1. What’s at venture?

When we talk about what’s at stake in a storey, we’re talking about what the booster stands to gain or lose, and in legends with strong excitements, both of these possibilities impounded a real feelings indict for that character.

What does your supporter stand to gain if they achieve their goal? If it’s a large sum of money, for example, that goal will have more feelings stakes if the exponent “re on the brink” of plummeting out of college because she knows how barely rendered her tuition.

And if failing to achieve that goal represents not only losing that large sum of money, it signifies losing her scholarship to her dream college, the one her folks were so proud she got into? So much the better.

When you up the ventures in your tale, you dial up the ardours involved.

2. How close is the relationship?

Interpersonal conflicts are one of the hallmarks of effective fiction. But conflicts with friends topic more than conflicts with strangers; conflicts with close friends trouble more than conflicts with acquaintances; and would be incompatible with family members is often used to matter most of all.

If you find yourself fight with how to strengthen the emotional quotient of your legend, take a look at the primary rapports in it. Is there a direction you can make one or more of those relationships closer?

Sometimes it’s only a matter of making a friend an age-old friend–one who was there for the protagonist at one of the toughest instants of her life. Maybe the neighbor lady, the one who’s dying of cancer, is actually the nanny who helped to raise the exponent. And maybe that conversation with the old boy in the ballpark should actually be a conversation with the protagonist’s dad.

When the relationships are closer, the spirits involved tend to be stronger.

3. What’s the backstory?

Backstory is a big part of the emotional influence conflicts hold in a narration, because it’s a big part of what those conflicts mean for the characters going through them. Backstory too facilitates the book threw herself in the character’s place, presenting her the background info necessary to understand and sympathize with those strong emotions.

For instance: A conflicts among a mother and her teenage daughter will be more powerful if the mother had strong would be incompatible with her own mother as a girl. A conflict between two brothers will be more powerful if one of them has always reigned the other. And a conflict between two friends over a new enjoy interest will contain a lot more charge if the one who’s fallen in love has a history of falling for abusive men.

For any generated situation, emotionally accused backstory will increase the feeling quotient–so an important strategy for engendering the sort of emotion you’re looking for in any devoted panorama or conflict is to firstly set up the backstory to support it.

4. What does the character say?

Scene is the place where the passions of the story are at their strongest, but as I noted at the outset of this berth, newer novelists tend to rely too much on the most obvious markers of spirit now, which tends to determine those spirits feel forced.

The stronger approach with vistum is to sharpen up the dialogue until the words themselves carry the charge of strong excitement, without the author having to employ a whole lot in the way of stagecoach accomplishes, so to speak, to notify us given the fact that the specific characteristics are feeling things.

A helpful technique in this regard is to strip the vistum down to exactly its dialogue. Can you tell what the characters are supposed to be feeling? And can you tell where the excitements alter?

If so, you can rely on that dialogue to do a lot of the heavy lifting, in terms of carrying the sentiments, in a way that will be predominantly invisible to the reader.

5. What does the character do?

A character who’s paralyzed with panic over the revelation by a family member of some long-buried secret might find herself abruptly making a wrong turn on her familiar travel to work.

A character overtook with jealousy at the revelation of his best friend’s upcoming nuptials might find himself at the lower end of a bottle of bourbon on a Tuesday night.

A character whose parents have just announced they’re getting divorced might immediately book a flight residence to try to talk them out of it.

As writers, it can be tempting to wax persuasive for paragraphs of summary that item exactly what the character is feeling and why. But in keeping with the old-fashioned adage “show, don’t tell, ” there’s often more ability in only having the character show us what they’re feeling by actually doing something.

6. What are they recalling?

Finally, one of the tools I consider more central to spirit in myth is one I believe a lot of newer writers neglect, and that’s what the specific characteristics is actually thinking.

Think of your actual knowledge of ardour, in real world. If body language is the first thing that tells us what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking tends to come next. As in “Suddenly, my face felt reddened. Why were all of these people looking at me? What had I done anything wrong? ”

Compare that to a more overt statement of emotion: “Suddenly, my face felt evened. I was agitated I’d done something wrong.” Not only is the POV closer in the first sample, the ardour feels more unforgettable and real.

None of the techniques I’ve detailed here will, in and of itself, generate feeling in a story. None of these techniques will, in and of itself, cause the reader to bite her knuckle, lean forward, and maybe even feel some unexpected wetness in her eyes.

But taken together, these techniques can do time that–and that, you’ll have to admit, is mystical indeed.

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