Posted by: nancycurteman | July 31, 2018

3 Ways to Ignite Reader Emotions

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Readers want to cry, laugh, fear, rage, and worry with a novel’s character. Fiction is not real, but emotions must be. It’s the author’s job to induce emotions in readers, to enable them to feel character emotions right along with the hero and heroine.  There are three basic ways to ignite reader emotions: description, adjusting elements of writing and interior dialog. Note none of these methods include simply stating the character is mad, sad, happy, angry. The old rule applies, “Show, don’t tell.”

Description. Describe the impact the emotion is having on the character’s body—weak knees, cold hands, trembling, sweating, swallowing, clenched teeth, blushing etc. These are a few examples to illustrate the physical impact of given emotions on characters.

Adjusting The Elements of Writing.  Slow pacingin emotional scenes such as fear of imminent danger or a death scene or romantic interlude. Darken settingwhen the mood is fearful or sad, brighten setting when the mood is joyful. A character’stone(the viewpoint character’s attitude) should be reflected in his actions and words. For example, if he is desperate, show it in his actions and in what he says. Make thecharactersympathetic so the reader can identify with her hopes, joys, sorrows and needs.

Internal Dialogue.This is one of the most effective strategies for invoking reader emotions because it can bare the character’s soul. Internal dialogue lets the reader in on the character’s deepest, most worrisome thoughts and memories that describe why he or she is feeling a given emotion—she hated her stepfather and this man acts just like him. Her friend died in a car accident on a dark rainy night and now she’s terrified of driving on stormy nights. Why did he insist on that last scotch? He knows he’s driving erratically. Can he make it home before a cop pulls him over?

All three of these strategies, description, adjustment of the elements of writing and internal dialogue are essential to igniting reader emotions


More Tips:

How to Increase Tension Through Character Inner Conflict
How to Use Character Inner Feelings to Drive Story Action
How Unconscious Motivations Drive Character Behavior in a Mystery Novel


  1. Great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂


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