For many authors, one of the most important goals of writing a story is creating an emotional response in the reader. It covers the entire range from anger to relief to happiness. I’m sure most avid readers have had a moment with a really good book where they had to put it down. Not because it was bad, but they became too sad or anger in regards to a big event. There’s the full intention of going back, but you simply need that break to compose yourself. So, how do you make this connection?
Well, it differs from genre to genre and author to author. The first thing to realize is that there is one rule that truly does go across the board. You will NEVER get the same reaction out of every reader. For example, you have people who love LOTR and have no reaction Boromir’s death. You also have those who love LOTR and tear up when they reach that part. Others laugh because they think he deserved it, a fourth group gets angry, and you could have a fifth for something else entirely. All of these are legitimate reactions to a story event and demonstrates that we’re writing to individuals instead of a hive mentality.
With such a variety of emotions, all an author can really do is try their best to create the reaction they want. You can do it through building up, painting the scene with tension, or whatever tricks work for that scene. In the end, it really does come down to the reader opening themselves to the characters. That whole ‘lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink with a straw’ thing. This okay though because imagine how boring it would be if you could do this perfectly or there was one magical note to hit that would make humanity as a whole react the way you want. Guess there are some out there who would love this shortcut. Still, that’s not how the world works, which means we can only try our best and hope the readers meet us halfway. Possibly even a quarter of the way since they’re aren’t in the planning, writing, and editing stages, but my point is that you can’t force a person to be angry if they don’t feel it.
This is where I should put a tip about pulling this off, but I’m actually at a loss because of the variety. There have been a few deaths and disasters that have caused people to teasingly tell me that I owe them tissues. Yet, I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary to draw out that emotion. Not on purpose anyway. All I remember is that I got emotional when writing the scenes, so maybe that’s a sign that you’re going in the right direction. It does seem to be harder as the series progresses for some reason. Either people are jumping into the middle or we naturally brace for disaster as a long series moves along. Thank you to all those authors who set the standard of killing off characters the instant the become relatable or beloved.
So, it might be better to open the floor to other authors and readers. What do you do to pass emotion through your works? What do you look for to gain emotion from what you read? Do you think this is a two person job instead of it being solely on one side of the equation?