Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On the Trigger

In my day job years, I often read during my daily train commute. Invariably, I'd come across a touching scene in a book. To avoid being embarrassed, I'd blink, look out the window, or do whatever I could to hide my emotions.

Fiction is a powerful weapon. With skilled hands on the trigger, a book can make a sad person happy, or the opposite. It can resurrect buried memories, make someone ponder the mysteries of life, satisfy a craving for romance or adventure, or even transport someone to a different world. 

The question is, how can an author elicit emotions or reactions from readers?

A few ways come to mind. First, make sure the reader isn't thrown out of the story. Careful editing is essential to avoid the distraction of spelling, syntax, or common sense errors.

Next, think about how you'd like your reader to react to certain scenes. Make sure your character's body language and dialogue support the emotions you wish to convey.

Lastly, and this isn't always easy, become one with your character. Experience that person's joys, pain, or sorrows, as if they're your own, and share those feelings with the reader.

If you've read a book, old or current, which especially touched you in any way, please share it with us. Or, perhaps you'd like to offer another method to get a reader into a story.



Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. For romantic comedy: Her Handyman & Girl of My Dreams. Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.  Romantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two Wrongs. Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com Chick Lit Faves 

9 comments :

  1. Susan Wiggs gets me every time. I had to stop taking her books to the gym to read in public. I think it's a matter of getting your readers deep into the heads/lives of your characters so they have a vested interest in what happens to them, on an emotional level as well as the basic plot level.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  2. There have been many books that touched me deeply on an emotional level. Most recently it was One Big Beautiful Thing by Marie Flanigan. In it she deals with grief issues in such a realistic way, I was sharing the central character's emotional ups and downs. This is a debut indie book, and one of those that deserves some attention.

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  3. Yes, Susan Wiggs has gotten to my emotions at times.

    I'll have to check out Marie Flanigan also.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  4. Great topic, Morgan. I think an emotional moment is often one of a slow, purposeful build on the writer's part. Internal conflict can set it up well, since wanting two disparate things at the same time is something the reader can relate to—and then when the character gets one of them in a big way, you can also feel the loss of the other. The definition of "gut-wrenching."

    I once heard that if your character cries, the reader doesn't have to. Like any old saw this can be proven wrong, but a character's tears, especially when repeated often, can indeed be oddly unmoving!

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  5. Very true, Kathryn. Overdoing a good thing loses its effect.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  6. When the reader laughs and cries with the character -- or for the character -- that character has become real to them; and you, the writer, have a fan. Just like a poignant scene in a film, the movie in the mind as perceived from the projector on the printed page can evoke emotions as real as though they were being endured by the reader herself.

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  7. Maeve Binchy was one of my favorite writers. Of course, there have been many others that touched me deeply. Katherine Ann Porter is another.
    LaVyrle Spencer stopped writing at the height of her career. I very much enjoyed her novels. Morning Glory was my all-time favorite romance novel. Very touching.

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  8. Sometimes a book can touch you when you least expect it!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  9. I think it was Gayle Wilson who said you don't want your characters to cry... you want the readers to.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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