Seasons are changing here in North Carolina. The morning air is crisper, a bit sharper. The sky is clearer, a little bluer. Orange pumpkins dot the landscape, many of them wearing their Halloween faces. Scarecrows, witches, and ghosts decorate front yards & porches, sentinels standing guard over hearth & home. I'm surrounded by a riot of color as hardwood trees strut their stuff, putting on their yearly fashion show, their one last hurrah before old man winter moves in and blows all their colorful leaves to the ground.
Autumn is all about color - an assault on the senses. The sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and yes, even the feel of Fall awakens so many emotions in me - many of the same emotions that I strive to share with readers through my stories.
Like life, writing should be woven with color, teasing all the senses - sight, sound, smell, touch, & taste. It should bring characters to life, make them so real that the reader will laugh with them and cry for them. How do you do that? By making a strong emotional connection between the reader and your characters. After all, emotions belong to the reader. It is our job as writers to make the reader feel empathy for our characters - our job to elicit a reaction from the reader. You can tell a reader that a character is unhappy or mad or glad by stating the facts, but to get a honest, heart felt reaction out of a reader, to make a reader really care, you have to write in such a way as to allow the reader to experience the emotion.
If you want to get an emotional reaction from your readers, start building your case by revealing the source of the character's emotion - the reason the character says or does or feels or acts as they do. Once you have established cause, then you raise the stakes - take the scene/situation up a notch, add color & depth by upping the stakes, revealing the emotional & physical consequences of a character's actions, ratcheting up the emotional costs - what does your character stand to lose? Everything?
After building your case, laying your groundwork, stand back and trust the reader to react and experience the avalanche of colorful emotions rolling off the pages, invading their mind, heart, & soul. If you've done your job, built your emotional case strong enough, the reader will have become emotionally vested, and they'll react with strong emotion to your characters and story. They will both love and hate with a passion. They will cry a river of tears for a lost or broken character and raise their voices to rejoice with one who has found their way back home. They will experience jealousy lost in a blue haze and fury igniting in a red rage. They will live, breathe, eat, and sleep your story in color. They'll hear voices of characters in their head and see them meandering through their dreams at night.
As an avid reader, I know this to be true as I've experienced it time and time again at the hands of a gifted author. As a writer, my goal is to achieve this same high level connection between my characters and my readers by carefully laying my groundwork, detailing reasons for the emotional baggage carried by each character, and then . . . by placing each of my characters on an emotional roller coaster, buckling them in, and flipping the switch to On. If I've done my job, the readers will feel, react, and experience the collision of colorful emotions, the destruction or salvation of individual characters.
Again, one lesson I've learned as both a reader and a writer is that emotions belong to the reader. If you don't elicit a strong emotional reaction from your readers, you'll lose them. You can deliver a bigger emotional punch by writing in color, not black & white.
Do you live life and write in color? What do you do to help your readers experience your characters emotional journey? Share any ideas/thoughts/tips with us.
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