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Put Your Readers in an Emotional Tug-of-War

“Put Your Readers in an Emotional Tug-of-War” by Joan Y. Edwards

Tug on the heart strings of your reader. Have him latch hold of the rope and yank the character. Have him want the character to win as desperately as the character himself.  Pull your reader this way and that way with your character’s emotions. Don’t stay stuck on the same emotion. Don’t always have the character win. Sometimes the rope of life pulls each one of us so strongly, that we tumble and fall.

You reader must be mesmerized with wondering what is going to happen to the main character. There has to be an emotional pull with your reader to get them to stay for the whole story. The reader has to relate to the characters in your story. If a reader doesn’t feel a reason to be curious about what happened to them…to care about what happened to your characters, the book is closed.

Perhaps you wrote a story, but it hasn’t turned out to be the best seller you thought it would be. What ran through your mind didn’t come out on the page. Why not? What’s missing?

The reader has to have a reason to like the character and care what happens. The seven articles in the links below and the four books touch on this subject.

Writers know in their heads what the characters are feeling. The problem comes in describing it in the story so that readers know without a doubt what’s going on and can relate to them. They can have compassion for them. Be angry with them. Cheer them on through their next problem until they reach their goal. Then the reader wants to hear more and more about that person in the story as if they were real.

Donald Maass in a workshop at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference said you must have tension in your story. The dialogue and the descriptions have to show both sides of the picture. Show how the characters are pulled toward believing they can get the job or their goal and on the other hand and doubting they can get any job or can’t reach their goal because of the way they fouled it up last time.

Inside our heads every day we have these opposite points of view. We have at least 50,000 thoughts a day. So do the characters in your story. Show they’re human. Share their thoughts. Their thoughts depict their emotions. Give your character one big strength and one big weakness, or give them one small strength and show its growth through your story. Our humanity is what we have in common with other people. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses.

When I tell people my story, it seems to have the emotion in it. However, when they read it, the flavor that draws a hungry reader isn’t present. I’m still working on this. I’m hoping that these resources help you find a way to pull readers into your story.

1 “Add emotion to a story” by Writing Contributors to Ehow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2222082_add-emotion-story.html

2. “Spice up Your Bland Writing” by Linda Houle http://ezinearticles.com/?Spice-Up-Your-Bland-Writing—Add-Emotional-Elements-For-Flavor&id=2303157

3. “How to Break the Rules of Emotional Response Writing” by Jason Black http://www.plottopunctuation.com/blog/show/71

4. “Backstory’s Emotional Weight” by Darcy Pattison

5. “Creating Emotional Conflict and Tension in a Romance Novel” by Dummies.comhttp://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/creating-emotional-conflict-and-tension-in-a-roman.html

6. “Creative Writing: Crafting Characters with Emotional Appeal in Mind” by Lenin Nair http://cutewriting.blogspot.com/2008/09/creative-writing-crafting-characters.html

7. “Breathing Life into Characters” by Sandy Tritt http://users.wirefire.com/tritt/tip6.html

1. The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass.

2. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Paperback) Jordan Rosenfeld http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1582974799/ref=oss_product

3. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits (Paperback) by Dr. Linda Edelstein:

4. Writing for Emotional Impact (Paperback) by Karl Iglesias:

Thanks for reading.
Joan Y. Edwards

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Revised June 29, 2013

Copyright © 2010-2013 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.



6 Responses

  1. Hi Joan,

    What a wealth of tips. I look forward to reading them. You put a lot into one post! Thanks so much.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, Thanks for your kind comments about my post. I hope the articles and/or the books help you! Pray for America. Joan Y. Edwards


  2. Dear Joan, as always, you rock, and so does your blog!
    From your writing pal, Evonne.


    • Dear Evonne, I’m glad you like my blog. Thanks for reading it and posting your kind comment. Thanks for being my writing pal, too. You’ve given me great ideas! Please pray for America. …Joan Y. Edwards


  3. This is great information and resources. It is difficult to get the characters’ emotions conveyed.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • Dear Karen, Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ve been working on getting the characters’ emotions conveyed, too. What has helped you? Is it telling the reader what the character would tell his/her best friend about what’s happening to them? Is it the conversation that’s going through their mind with their inner self? I’m trying to learn. It’s the key to selling our stories. We’ll learn together. Do something good for yourself today! Joan Y. Edwards joanyedwards@earthlink.net 1. Pub Sub 3rd Fri – Submit a manuscript to a publisher on the third Friday of each month. May I count you in? 2. Be like Flip Flap Floodle and say, “I Won’t Give up.” 3. http://www.joanyedwards.com Inspirational devotions, puzzles, and skits for children


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