In every piece of writing I do, I return to a similar goal, no matter the genre, plot or story length. I want to make it gut-wrenchingly, tear-jerkingly, think-about-the-characters-at-the-expense-of-sleep, emotive.
I can’t stand a slow story, so action is also a prime focus, but without that emotional tug, it’s just a fast-paced bit of fluff. Good for a quicky, but you won’t be reliving the experience in your head long after the book is done. So I want both.
Let’s think about music for a moment. It’s the stuff that inspires (me, anyway). You know the songs that do it for ya; whether they be sad, angry, elated, sexy–powerful, all. My songs may not be your songs, but that isn’t the point. The point is, they make you feel something. They’re poignantly perfect. And they pull you in and take your breath away.
The beauty of music is that the artists get to use dual forces to break your heart. Words and music, both. So often I’ll hear a particular song and wish that I could somehow bottle up that emotion that is generated by the tune and dump it all over my writing. Not steal the lyrics. Not have a page of sheet notes stuck in between the pages of my finished book. Just to somehow capture the feelings that certain music produces in me and give it back to readers.
I have seen blogs where authors have a playlist of music that inspired them during their writing. I hear that (no pun intended, well, just realized). I know I have my particular favorites; they change with the scenes, change with the books, change with the characters. But somehow I wish I could go back and, rereading, feel that emotive tug that so inspired me in the first place. Feel that song that got me in the writing mood to begin with.
So, what are the keys to emotive writing?
Well, I’m still hammering this out, but I think that the first and foremost cannot-be-done-without is good characterization.
If your characters are flat, underdeveloped, or (IMO–and some may disagree with this) well-developed but just plain annoying as all hell, then nobody cares. Readers don’t feel anything when your heroine’s dog dies. They don’t cry with joy when your love interest finally asks the girl to prom. They couldn’t care less when the too-super super hero with the perfect everything that makes him perfectly hateable gets captured and tortured by the evil villain. Well, maybe they’ll be relieved and a little jealous that they can’t met out the punishment…That’s the gray area on the characters we simply don’t like. For me, I love to hate the bad guys, and I want to like the “good” guys. Personal preference, I suppose.
So that’s step one: Characters that a reader can care about. It’s probably the only step, because after that you can throw them into whatever situation you want and step back and watch what happens.
Ya gotta feel the love to feel the love.