5 Steps to Writing with Emotion
Let’s think about art for a moment, shall we? Because after all, writing is an art. If I asked you or anybody else what it is they like about art, most of the time they’re going to say that it made them feel something. That’s one of the essences we all love about art: that it touches us in an emotional way. No matter what you’re writing or your level of expertise, making the reader actually feel a certain way about your writing should be a goal. However, sometimes trying to reach that goal can be elusive. I’m here to help with 5 Steps to Writing with Emotion.
Step #1: Unravel what “emotional” means to you.
So, you want to write with more emotion. Got it. But before you can even begin to do that, it’s very important to figure out what “emotional” means to you. I’d be willing to bet that when asked, most people are going to say “emotional” means when someone’s crying or sad. They wouldn’t be wrong, but they also wouldn’t be 100% right, either. There are many different emotions and you have to figure out how it’s defined for you, personally. No one can do that for you. So, do you actually want a reader to feel sad enough to evoke tears? Do you want them to be angry and riled up about a character or situation? Or would you prefer to make someone burst out into gut-busting laughter? Figure out what the word means to you and you’ll have knocked out what is a simple, yet important task.
Step #2: Tap into it.
Now that you know what “emotional” means to you, a good thing to do next would be to tap into the emotions you’re feeling internally and want to get out on paper. Here’s what I mean: You’ve now figured out that the kind of emotion you want to write with is one that scares readers, but before you start writing you spend hours online looking at a bunch of hilarious Bernie Sanders memes. I get it, it’s hard to escape the hilarity of Inauguration Day Bernie, but now you’ve tainted the emotion that you planned to write with and that scary feeling might not come out as you intended. Really sit and think about the subjects, words, or plots that would put you in that emotional state to help fuel your writing.
Step #3: Don’t be afraid of inspiration.
Ah, now you’re saying to yourself, “But what if I just can’t tap into a certain emotional state? Am I just stuck?” The answer is yes, you’re stuck, but there’s an easy and fun way out! I’ll give you this anecdote: When I was writing one of my suspense-thrillers, I would sometimes struggle with how an idea in my head would translate to page-turning writing. So, I looked for inspiration in the books, movies, and music that I thought did a great job with something I struggled with. I know a lot of artists try not to consume others’ art while they’re in a particular zone for fear of being influenced, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be influenced. Pull out that Saw collection you have and let Jigsaw inspire you!
Step #4: Exercise and rest
Just like with anything you’re hoping to be good at, the old cliché still rings true: practice makes perfect. Or closer to it. There are a few geniuses amongst us that could sit down during their first attempt at writing and create Pulitzer-winning material. That could be you or maybe, just maybe, you’re like the vast majority of us who need all the practice we can get! And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Just like going to the gym and putting in countless reps to gain muscle, you can exercise your writing skills with repetitions of playing with different words or sentence structures that create the feeling you want for the reader. Have you found yourself exhausted with constantly hitting backspace in disgust? Walk away (after saving your work, or course) and rest your brain for a little bit to let your constant exercise start to work for you, even when you’re not working!
Step #5: Second that emotion.
Lastly, one surefire way to make sure you’re becoming better at writing with emotion is to make sure your eyes aren’t the only ones seeing your work. If you want to be published, it’s almost impossible for your work not to be seen by someone else. But before that process, perhaps show your writing to a trusted friend or family member to gauge their feelings. Make sure you don’t actually tell them what you’re looking for but get some feedback from them and see if they’re feeling the way you intended. If they mention all the key words or emotions you’d intended without first being clued in, you know you’re on the right track!
Now that you’ve read through these 5 steps, what are you waiting for? That romantic comedy novel you’ve been thinking about writing for years isn’t going to manifest from thin air! You’ve got the tools to write some amazing, emotional stuff that will be sure to make readers really feel something. All you have to do now is get to work and soon enough you’ll have a legion of fans hanging on your every word!
Written by K.O. Bailey
K.O. Bailey is the self-published author of Save Them All and The Wounded. While he’s waiting for the world to return to normal to research for his 3rd book he writes poetry to keep his pen sharp. And when not doing any kind of writing for fun he attends Kansas State University as a counseling Ph.D. student. You can follow him and keep up with his writing and learning adventures on Instagram (@kobaileybooks).