Writing is Emotion: Jerk Your Readers Around

Right now, ChatGPT is upending all kinds of art and writing. Yet the core of good fiction is the emotion the writer brings to the table. Let’s wait till AI goes through some trauma and then it might be able to write well. Everyone, AI included, can write decent fiction. But to make the story sing, you need to jerk your readers around because writing is emotion.

Be Vulnerable

How can you foster this emotional connection between reader and story? The key is to open yourself up and delve into your vulnerabilities. When writers open up and expose their inner demons, they invite readers into an intimate space. Readers will recognize the shared struggles and emotions and jive on it. 

However, opening up can sometimes be too much. There’s a reason we lock these private moments away. They cause us distress. The more vulnerable a writer can be, it will reinforce the human-ness of the writing. 

Yet there are some other techniques to stir up emotion. 

Get Concrete

A basic level of story writing tells the reader how people are feeling. And this tends to be the level ChatGPT is currently writing on. We see writing like this: She was sad. Emotions were overwhelming her. 

Instead of simply stating that a character is sad, describe how tears well up in their eyes, how their shoulders slump, and let their gaze become distant and unfocused. 

In addition to physical actions, dive into the character’s mind. Fiction is the only art form where we have interiority — being able to see the thoughts and moods of characters. This will further connect the reader with the story. 

Follow the Heat

Every story has a hot spot, where the writing really takes off. This “heat” represents emotional level. The enthusiasm you bring as a writer burns hottest in these moments. It’s where you opened up. 

Readers may not have experienced the exact same events that spurred your emotional journey. Yet, if you are honest with the emotions you feel, the reader will connect. 

Create Subtext

Characters shouldn’t run around saying exactly how they feel. It bores the reader. There’s no mystery. Plus, it’s not at all realistic. 

Most people have an inner filter, a wall of tact, that prevents our id from spewing all our inner emotions everywhere like a flamethrower. Instead, we tone down our emotions, or even sublimate them. 

There’s the level of what the character is really thinking. Then there’s the level of what that character feels comfortable relating. This is where body motion and other non-verbals can showcase the true emotions.

Tim Kane

Monthly Mental Kitchen

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