One way to make your story have universal appeal is to add the tension of opposing emotions inside your character. We all feel mixed emotions every day. When a character has two or three choices and none of them seem very good, it adds tension. It makes the reader want to turn the page.
Emotions in your characters will help your story reach out and hook more readers. You want your readers emotionally involved with the characters in the story. If they are emotionally involved, they’ll want to find out what happens to them.
Characters need strengths and weaknesses. For example, righteous anger can be a strength, while contempt could be a weakness. Whether characters are likable or unlikable, they need good traits or strengths and bad traits or weaknesses. No living person is one dimensional, so neither should fictitious ones be.
Flaws and passions should be revealed in layers. Show, don’t tell. A writer can write a paragraph or more explaining the personality traits, feelings, strengths, and/or weaknesses of a character, boring a reader to tears; or the author can reveal layer by layer of the character through the plot, dialogue and storyline - showing the reader the character and his or her emotions rather than telling about the character.
These are the main emotions: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise. Add action, setting, and description of your character’s face and body to make these emotions real.
Here is an example of sad emotion that works is Jo Kittinger’s picture book, “Dirty-Third Street.”
“You might be right,” said Mom. She sank to the floor in the corner. “What was I thinking?”
I slumped down beside her and leaned my head against her shoulder.
Here’s an excerpt from my WIP, “Winnie’s War” which shows anger.
“I loathe this war! It’s destroyin’ our family.” Winnie flung her arms up and marched toward the door. “If me Dad were alive, he’d never send them away.”
Here’s an example of sad emotion from “Winnie’s War.”
“Let us know where you end up, Davy.” Winnie waved and sobbed through her fake smile as the train sped around the corner and out of sight. Please bring them back safely.
There are many other emotions that your characters can show like amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt, pride in achievement, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure, and shame. The more emotions you can add to your character’s story the stronger the hook you will have in your reader’s heart.
As a freelance writer and ghostwriter, Kathy Stemke has published over one hundred of articles in directories, magazines and on websites. She is a reviewer for Sylvan Dell Publishing and a former editor for The National Writing for Children Center. As a retired teacher, Kathy has several activities published with Gryphon House Publishing.Award winning author, Kathy Stemke’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next two picture books were, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, and Trouble on Earth Day. Both of these books have been awarded the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. Visit her book blog at http://shshshletthebabysleep.blogspot.com.