Every writer desires the ability to use their written words to evoke strong emotions from their readers. This might be something as simple as happiness or sadness, or it could be more complicated emotions, such as the rush of excitement, the sinister chill of fear, or the steady building of tension. This is particularly true of poets, who may wish to focus solely on a single emotion, but it can also help readers of longer pieces of writing to connect with our characters, scenes, and plots.
This month, we are thinking about emotion. I like to explore topics which we, as writers, think about every time we put pen to paper, essential parts of the basic craft. Emotion is just that: it’s what writing is supposed to do. Your readers come to you to experience something as simple as a laugh or deep enough to make them ponder their own existence.
There is a lot that can be said about emotions. But there seems to me to be no better place to begin than by thinking about which emotions should be portrayed, and where exactly in your piece of writing they should be found. In the case of a lot of poetry, this may be throughout the entire poem, although for extra impact I suggest using the metaphor, word or description that encourages the strongest emotional reaction out of you at the end. A poem has a greater wow factor if it ends on something big, bold or raw – and leaves the final line or verse to flicker through the reader’s mind again and again.
Of course, longer poems and stories may contain a number of emotions. It may be interesting in poetry to contrast two emotions with one another, or even to connect them in an unusual way. In stories, your readers often experience the majority of emotions through your characters, what they went through in the past, and what they endure during the story. This means that when something significant or emotionally relevant happens, you as the writer need to identify it as an important point for emotion.
How long should it last for? How deeply should it affect the character? It may take a bit of practice, but you need to be able to recognise when a part of your story has emotional significance and pay it due attention.
Writing emotion involves the words you use, the images you create, and the way that your character(s) or scene reacts. We will think more about that next time – once you’ve figured out where in your piece the emotion will have the biggest impact on your reader, then you can start fleshing it out.
This month’s theme is EMOTION. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of emotions, then please post a link in the comments or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Emotion.