Discover The Secret To Engaging Readers’ Emotions In Your Novel by Jocelyn Lindsay
We all carry emotional baggage around with us. Depending on the day, your baggage might be a fanny pack or steamer trunk.
Today, my luggage is a picnic basket. It’s filled with delicious, feel good snacks. Last week it was a garbage bag full of rotting take out containers.
Even if the rest of the world can’t see it, we live in a constantly shifting emotional landscape inside our heads.
Most writers are afraid of putting too much emotion on the page, when in reality most writers aren’t putting nearly enough emotion on the page.
Writers tend to be stingy. As if they’re trying to cram a character’s emotional luggage into the nearest closet, under the bed, or anywhere no one will see it.
- Want you to open up all that baggage.
- Want to root around in your novel to see what you got in there.
- Love messy, complicated, uncomfortable, emotions.
- Crave all those emotions you’re trying to tiptoe around.
Don’t be afraid to give it to them.
But. . .
(You probably knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
You can’t make readers feel something they don’t already feel.
If you can’t get your readers’ emotions engaged, they’re not going to connect with what you’re writing, and they’re going to go do something else — like fold laundry or mow the lawn.
It would be so much easier if we could just magicalize our readers into feeling all the feels, but we can’t.
How do we hijack their emotions instead so they feel what we want them to feel?
Know what your reader is looking for.
Your task isn’t to force them to feel what they don’t feel, but to get them to feel more of what they’re already feeling or looking for.
Readers want to connect — they want to FEEL. They’re ready for what you’re offering before they’ve even read a word of your novel. This is great news.
When a reader shops for a book, whether they know it or not, they’re shopping for an emotion.
Emotions are triggered by:
- Cover art
- Book jacket
Your readers also have emotional expectations based on the GENRE they’re shopping for.
Here are a few genres and emotions connected with them:
- Romance: Love. Desire. Jealousy. Obsession. Intimacy. Grief. Guilt.
- Action / Thriller: Excitement. Life on the line. Big stakes. Risk. Reward.
- Crime / Mystery: Curiosity. Intrigue. Justice. Vengeance. Anger.
- Horror: Fear. Terror. Survival.
- SciFi / Fantasy: Wonder. Awe. Adventure.
As a writer, as soon as you know what genre you’re writing in, you know the foundational emotions of your story. You know what your readers are looking for.
Writing a Jack Reacher inspired thriller? Then you need to make sure you’re including situations that evoke excitement, risk, reward, and adrenaline. Start changing those foundational adrenaline-based emotions, and your reader is going to be annoyed.
For example, if Jack spends multiple chapters sitting by the bedside of a dying woman and reminiscing about how he should have married her out of high school because he could have had a family, lived in suburbia, and been a high school music teacher…
Your reader is probably going to put your book down.
Reacher fans want the excitement of chasing the bad guys, righting wrongs, and punching action.
When you know what emotions your reader is looking for, you can make sure you’re giving it to them in your story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jocelyn Lindsay is a book coach and entrepreneur. Since 2018 she has been helping authors finish, publish, and market great books. From inspiration to publication, her coaching clients kick their fears and doubts to the curb and go on to sign contracts with their dream agents or start self-publishing careers.
Offering one-on-one coaching, she helps serious writers roll up their sleeves and get their books done. When she’s not elbow-deep in her client’s books, she’s outside in her PNW garden battling weeds, drinking strong chai, binging British murder mysteries, and going on long hikes. Her family and two criminal mastermind cats keep her in line. Most of the time.