Showing posts with label emotions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emotions. Show all posts

Pull Your Reader's Heart Strings

When your character is caught up in the heat of the moment you want the emotion that you evoke to be authentic. She finds out that her best friend took her lunch money without asking. The neighborhood bully is spreading lies about him behind his back at school. The day has finally
come for her to pick up her new puppy at the shelter.

Resources such as the series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi can help: The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. But unless the emotions come from deep inside you, the writer, true feelings that you have experienced, whether joyful or filled with pain, may not ring true when expressing your character's feelings.

Take a Leaf from an Actor's Playbook

To cry on demand, according to Wade Bradford, in "How to Cry: An Actor's Guide to Crying and Tears,", an actor need only recreate into her own true emotions, by:
  • Tapping into her memory: a sad experience that resulted in overwhelming grief or pain. Caveat: An actor must be in tune with her past.
  • Choosing the right memory for the right moment.
  • Finding ways to connect script lines with personal moments when a memory isn't enough. Some ways this can be accomplished is by thinking up upsetting events that didn't actually happen to the actor. What if someone talked her into going on a roller coaster ride on the highest, fastest roller coaster in the world, and she's afraid of heights? Her dog fell down a dry well and is lying on the bottom, hurt?
Where Writers Have It Over Actors

In the July 1, 2014 post, "4 Tips for Writing Great Scenes," by Ingrid Sundberg from her blog ingridsundberg, Sundberg describes the  importance of creating emotion in scenes. The first tip is to make sure your scene has dramatic action, " . . . the action the protagonist takes to resolve the problem he has suddenly been faced with." Sundberg quotes Robert Mckee in STORY: "Well plotted stories are built on stringing together the scenes that have dramatic action. These are the important moments within the character's life that move the plot forward." Tip two asks, "Is there a significant emotional change in the scene? A great way to tell if your scenes have dramatic action is to check and see if there's a significant emotional change;" i.e., having the character start the scene happy
and leaving it sad.

Here's where you express your own true emotions.Think of the main emotion expressed, jot it down and reflect on it. If need be, consult your personal feelings and a resource such as The Emotion Thesaurus. After writing the scene, the next day (after a rest) see if you've shown the utmost emotion so that your reader may experience and identify with what your character is going through.

Create a Personal Emotion List

To tap into your own authentic emotions, try keeping a notebook or computer file of your own poignant moments. Every time an experience happens to you or occurs to you, add it to your list. The seventy-five emotions listed in The Emotion Thesaurus can jumpstart your list, with such topics as envy, guilt, happiness, denial, and confusion. Here are a few of my personal emotions I've thought of so far.

Surprise: The Elephant Foot Story

Early one spring for Mother's Day my family wanted to get me a wild-bird-watching gift to enhance my love-of-birds hobby. They found a cement bird bath, not fancy, but an excellent addition to my growing collection of books, bird feeders, bird clock--you get the picture. The problem was, where to store it until the allotted day. Knowing me and that I would not notice, they contrived to hide the bird bath in plain sight. They turned the stem part upside down with the wide-mouthed tub stored next to it on the garage floor, right next to where I parked my car.

On Mother's Day morning I went outside and was completely surprised to find the birdbath set up in the garden filled to the brim with fresh water. When asked if I had noticed anything different in the garage on the days leading up to Mother's Day, I said, "You mean the elephant's foot?" For that is what my mind told me I saw all those days when getting in and out of my car. Needless to say, this story has become part of our family lore, which to this day I haven't been able to live down.

Scared/Afraid: An Unwanted Parking Lot Visit

On the day of my dental appointment I ran a quick errand at the grocery store and made it back to my car with minutes to spare. I had my hand on the door handle when a man walked up and asked if I would give him a ride to a location about twenty miles away. Instinct told me I had only seconds due to the sinister look on his face. He took a step toward me just as I pulled the door handle and jumped in, mumbling that I had to hurry to the dentist's office. I locked the door and sped away. A second longer and I may not have gotten away.

Sad: Rabbit in the Road

I debated whether to include a recent sad event that happened to me. Originally, I thought I'd include only fun personal stories. One of my daughters changed my mind. She told me that sad stories run deep and therefore are unforgettable. This sad event, as I tell it, still brings tears, which qualifies it for my Personal Emotion List. Just two weeks ago while stopped to pick up the morning paper, I saw two cottontail rabbits in the middle of the road. One lay flat and unmoving, the other very much alive, sitting with its chin resting on its parent/sibling/cousin's lifeless body. A movement from our car sent the live rabbit scampering into the underbrush. I rode tearfully away, with an intense twist in my heart, as if gripped by a fist. The experience planted itself immediately in my heart as one sad occurrence I will never forget.

If you're pressed for time: Perhaps all that is necessary is a simple index with notes jotted beside each emotion you want to elicit. Whatever method you use, the important thing is to endow your character with the truest emotion possible so your reader can laugh, cry, be annoyed, right along with the character in your story.

Photo courtesy of

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed the online Fiction Course with, and is currently taking Joyce's Picture Book Essentials course. Linda has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

Show Me!

            Experienced writers have learned this less well, but less experienced writers are still learning it or have it yet to learn. Even for experienced writers it is good to review it every so often. What am I talking about? The “show, don’t tell” rule of writing. It sounds so simple, and yet it is one of the hardest to learn for some of us.

            Telling is what you see with narratives, and it is okay in the proper prospective. But you do not want to fill your book with telling your story. Your readers like action, dialog, descriptions, emotions, all the things that your readers can take and create a picture in their minds.

            Show your story. Give it characters your reader can fall in love with and want more of them. Give them a setting or location that their mind can grab hold of and feel they are right there with the characters. Make the characters speak to them and create action that keeps the story moving. Give descriptions of the setting and characters through narrative and some through dialog, but do not insult your readers by giving them every little detail. Readers like to be a bit creative themselves so give just enough to stimulate their own imaginations, and let them run with it.

            When you have fast-paced scenes, it is good to slow things down and give your reader a chance to breathe. Your story should run in waves of fast pace and slow pace. That is where the narrative comes in. You can use it to slow down the pace of the story.

            Someone once told me to read through my story; and if there are areas where I am telling, ask myself if there is a way I can show it rather than tell it. If there are, then I need to change it.

            Narratives do serve a purpose, so remember not to change all of them. Also remember, it is the author’s responsibility to create a world in which his/her readers can get lost and want more of it.

            Following are some points to remember when self-editing your work:  1) How often do you use narrative summary?  2) Which sections do you want to convert into scenes (action)?
3) Do you have any narrative summary? (You do need some.)  4) Are you describing your characters’ feelings or are you showing them?

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                                Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters In Crime
                      Writers on the Move

Telling Your Story

Finding Expression in Pain

We all have a story to tell. And writing our story can be therapeutic for us and our readers.

You may have faced some real difficulties or a tragedy in your life. That doesn't mean you have to write a tell all or self-help book. You may not want to openly discuss a specific situation. The pain from sorrow or loss can be told in many ways. It may be through the intricate details of a novel filled with suspense, the main character is like you, and your emotions find direction through the character's emotions. Or maybe poetry is the farthest thing from your mind, and yet out of nowhere, the flowing, soothing words are written with the ease of a conductor leading an orchestra. 

Let your writing naturally flow from your soul and see where it takes you. You will discover comfort as your emotions are finding expression, and readers will benefit, too.

I have personally faced a tragedy in my life that helped me find a writing style that I didn't know was in me: allegory. I didn't have the desire to get down to the business of writing a book on the topic at hand. Instead, I found myself describing what I was feeling indirectly with shadows - not light. It helped me to write in an abstract way about the pain.

Of course, this is nothing new. Yet, the encouragement I hope to give you is not to confine yourself with always being predictable in your writing. The abrupt circumstances in our lives can abruptly change us and that's not always a bad thing.

Let the gift you have flow out of your soul and make new paths for you and your readers! Because even in life's storms, there is beauty.


Kathleen Moulton has a passion to bring hope to hurting people of all ages who are facing disappointment, discouragement, and loss. You are invited to read When It Hurts -

Article photo courtesy: PictureWendy / Foter / CC BY-NC

Notable Dialogue

Dialogue is important to our stories. Without it our story could be rather boring to the readers. Dialogue can add emotion such as anger, excitement, humor, etc. It can lend mystery, suspense, and terror. Dialogue can provide our stories with backbone. So it stands to reason we need to get it right.

When we edit our work, there are some things for which we need to watch. For instance, explanations that are outside the dialogue. These are generally emotions. Try cutting them and see if it reads better. If it doesn't, you may need to rewrite your dialogue.

We all know about the -ly words. Most of these are associated with adjectives which describe an emotion (angrily, lovingly, etc.). Cut as many as you can of these or rewrite it. Not all can be eliminated, but do try to eliminate as many as you can.

Speaker attributions are something you need to analyze closely. Are any of them physical impossibilities? Example: "Call me tonight," she smiled. This type of attribution can brand you as an amateur. Are there any verbs other than "said"? There can be an occasional exception, but for the most part "said" is all you need. Speaker attributions are for clarifying who is speaking. You may be able to eliminate them altogether or replace with beats. Do not overdo the beats because they can be distracting. A balance of attributions and beats is preferred.

Do not start a paragraph with a speaker attribution. Always start with dialogue and place the attribution at the first comfortable spot. Example: "Stand back," he said, "or I'll shoot." Also make sure you put the pronoun before the verb (he said). If you have several characters speaking in a scene, you can have a string of "saids" which can be monotonous. Using a beat can solve this problem.

Remember! Ellipsis is for gaps or a character's voice trailing off. An example of a gap would be when you are showing one side of a telephone conversation. Dashes are used to show an interruption.

When writing dialogue, paragraph more often, especially when it is something you want to stand out or you have new speakers.

I hope these pointers help as you self-edit your work.

Keep wrting!

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                   Writers On The Move

Emotions Bring Depth to Your Character's and Hook Your Reader's Heart

by Kathy Stemke

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

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