Conveying Emotion

Yesterday I reviewed Rebecca York’s Ghost Moon, and it got me to thinking about how writers convey emotion to their readers. One truism I’ve seen repeated by a handful of romance & erotica writers is that if the writer isn’t ‘feeling it’ when he or she writes it, the reader won’t feel it when he or she reads it.

There are many elements of style that affect emotion. Pacing is used to ratchet up the tension in a thriller, for example. One of the things that makes Stephen Wilbers’s The Keys to Great Writing such a good book is that it explains the effect that various elements of style have on your work—such as the ways in which different sentence lengths affect emotion and pacing. Some writers can brilliantly convey emotion in their work by feel (without having to consciously plan the elements of style), but it never hurts, and often helps, to be able to more consciously shape the effect you have on your readers.

Take a look at that first review and some of my comments on the elements of style that seemed to rob the book of emotion for me. Then pick up a book you’ve read recently that struck you as being either particularly poor at conveying emotion or particularly good. Re-read the scene that was most unfortunately flat—or that made you tear up or whoop for joy—and then free-write for at least one side of a sheet of paper (or ten minutes, or whatever you like) about how you believe the writer’s style choices resulted in such a powerful or weak emotional impact.

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