Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Adding Emotions to Your Stories
One facet of my writing that I’ve been focusing on lately is injecting more emotion into my chapters. I rarely think about this kind of stuff when I’m writing, at least not in the early drafts, so it’s no surprise that my prose is often little more than a flat recounting of the scene. Kind of a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to the words. So I’ve learned that it’s important (read: mandatory) for me to go back over my scenes and amp up the emotions. I don’t need (or want) to make every scene an emotional rollercoaster, but I do want to enhance the natural emotions that are already present.
Sometimes the emotional tone of a scene is self-evident—for example, when the main character is being chased by someone with evil intent. In those instances, even I can figure out how to add emotional cues that show the character is afraid. The hard part is working with scenes that don’t have an obvious emotional component. Consider a scene where a simple conversation takes place between two friends where necessary information is being exchanged. Where’s the emotion in that? Boredom?
In cases like this, the trick is to ferret out whatever small bits of emotion are present and finding a way to amplify them. Does one of the characters have a slight beef with the other because of some past event? Does one of the characters think the other is crazy for taking too many risks? Just because they’re friends doesn’t mean they can’t be mad at each other every once in a while. Bring those conflicts to the fore, even if they don’t have anything specifically to do with the conversation at hand. Your reader will thank you for it.
And if the characters don’t have a reason to be upset with each other, then give them one. That's what subplots are for. Whatever you do, make sure the reader feels some sort of emotion in every scene, no matter how mundane the scene is. In fact, now that I think of it, the more mundane the scene, the more important it is that you find a way to inject emotion into it.
In science fiction and fantasy, one of the most important emotions to evoke is “wonder.” It’s what keeps readers of those genres reading. So when my main character recently arrived at a strange mansion in the middle of the forest for a meeting, I went back through the scene and played up the “wonder” aspects, letting the MC marvel at all the strange things she sees. And if that wasn’t enough, I also had the character worry about what she might have gotten herself into. Just because I know there’s no danger doesn’t mean the reader shouldn’t be worried.
So what do you do to make sure your stories have plenty of emotional content?