Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Readers Become A Blubbering--Grab-a-Tissue Mess


Engaging readers in an emotionally driven scene becomes the key to a memorable story whether the means is humor, sadness, scary, enraged, true love, etc,.

In fact, mistakes can be forgiven even outweighed if the reader has memorable pieces of story to recall. 

The scene can be goofy, over-the-top, or corny as long as the reader is elevated to give an emotional response.

My all time favorite emotion scene is the opening of Romancing the Stone

The character's name is Joan Wilder. She is a world famous author of romance stories. Her editor is bugging her to finish the next best seller. 

Romancing the Stone-IMDB
Scene: Joan is sitting in her apartment at a flimsy table. She has headphones on and is reading this last scene of her completed work out loud: Jesse, the hero of all her stories, rides over the hill just in time to save the girl. He kills the bad guys then scoops her up on his horse and they ride into the sunset. Joan is a blubbering mess as she reads "The End."

Her emotions are over the top spilling out her eyes and pumping laughter from her lungs. Joan searches her house for a tissue, willing to use toilet paper, paper towel, anything and only finds reminder notes to buy more tissue. As a last resort she blows her nose in a post-it stuck to her fridge with one word written on it--tissues.  


How can this be achieved?

1. Show don't tell.
2. Paint scenes in 3D...yea even 4D
3. Present character's POV with their gut perceptions. Not what is necessarily proper but what he or she really does in each scene. Make men men. Women can be tough and feminine. People die, weep mournfully, laugh uproariously, belch in public, fart, trip, stutter, and even do things right!
4. Show don't tell.

To demonstrate we happen to have a few published Alley Cats who are excited to share an emotion powered exert from their book:

From: Shadowed by Grace by Cara Putnum--

She crept toward her mother's narrow bed but couldn't force herself to look into her mother's eyes, not when the woman had read her every though with a glance from the moment Rachel had first breathed.

I still can't write his name, as if the very act of doing so will cause him to evaporate like the mist. I can't because when I am with him, I am alive. It is as if I hold my breath until the next moment he is with me. Too long and I feel sick as if I will expire from lack of air.

From:  In His Grip by Amy Leigh Simpson-Coming Spring 2016--

         After the violent shriek of the tires and deafening roar of twisting steel all had fallen silent. Her screams had faded to intermittent hiccups and sniffles. The eerie hush of the falling rain like a blanket of white noise smothering the wreckage. Minutes or hours might have passed as her small body, suspended inches from the crushed roof of the car, wriggled against the cutting pressure of the seat belt. Then a groaning sound. A snippet of hope that her parents had survived. She whimpered, fresh tears dripping in the already frozen tear tracks down her forehead. Never had a sweeter sound graced Joselyn’s ears than when her father’s gruff accent assured her she wasn’t alone.
         Charisma? … Joselyn?”
        “Daddy. Oh, daddy, I’m here. I’m—I’m scared.” She shivered hard, trembling uncontrollably from the cold that had long ago soaked through her winter coat.
        Her father didn’t assure her everything would be all right. Somehow she knew nothing would ever be all right again.

From A Side of Hope by Krista Phillips—

       Air lodged in her lungs. Her body refused to breathe. Blood rushed to her head, and the world tipped on its side.
       Her hands grasped for something to hold her up and fell upon the back of the chair. It didn’t make sense. Why was Adam here? Today? After all these years?
       Reuben stood, arms folded across his chest, giving the new guest a fierce look. “Tilly, you know this guy?”
      The man with dark hair and sharp gray eyes fiddled with his hands for a moment then shoved them into his pockets. He looked—older. Age had only agreed with him, though. Light lines creased his eyes. His jaw was still strong and solid, covered by short stubble that begged for a razor. Gone was the immature “boy” whom she’d once thought she would love forever. In his place was a man whose presence threatened to destroy everything. “I—I didn’t realize you had this much company.”
      Words jumbled in her brain. “It—it’s my birthday. I didn’t know—I mean, they surprised me.”
      Stew, Allie’s husband, flanked Adam on the other side. “Tilly, who is this guy?”
      She blinked and swallowed. What should she say? Most people—those few who would even remember him—probably thought Adam a good-for-nothing guy who was long gone years ago.  No one had even mentioned him for well over a decade, and no one, not even her best friends, knew her secret.
      Her eyes set on Adam again, and suddenly the years slipped away. She was twenty-two and facing the man who chose a career over love and shattered her heart into a million pieces in the process. Words stuck in her throat, hollow and lifeless. She blinked. The only thing she could think to say was the truth. “I’m sorry. Everyone—” She looked around, her eyes touching on confused and bewildered faces. “This is Adam. My husband.”

From: The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

      David moved to miss the scalpel, but the blade pierced into his forearm, producing another bite of pain. With as much force as he could muster, David slammed a fist into Clayton’s face, sending the man and his crutch sprawling off balance and onto the floor.
      Clayton growled, reaching for another bed rail to regain his balance, and grabbing the blanket covering poor Mr. Sacks instead. The new arrival attempted to slide back in his bed, as far from Clayton as he could, but the madman turned the scalpel on him. Blood riveted from Clayton’s nose as he hovered over Sacks. David charged forward to make another attack, but Catherine’s sudden appearance behind Clayton froze him in place. She hadn’t made a sound. Careful and precise, she raised a white ceramic bowl into the air, and without hesitation, smashed it down onto Clayton’s head.
      Time slowed. Clayton stared at David, a look of pure surprise then curiosity crossing his face, before he crumbled to the floor in a massive heap.
      David looked up at Catherine, who looked back at him with as much of a wide-eyed expression as he must have shown. She released a long, slow breath as if she’d been holding it since they entered the room.

As a writer inundated with edits, deadlines, etc, you may not even realize the extent your driven scene or paragraph impacted a reader to respond outwardly. In their own setting with your book in hand, she burst out laughing. He gasped. She yelled a warning. He screamed the right way to turn. The book was slammed shut while the reader gained their composure. THEN curiosity forced them to open the cover again.

Pumping up emotional scenes to spring to life is crucial because they drive readers to want more. Read more. Laugh more. Hope that the character will live, kiss, make-the-right-choice-to-the-last-page more. 

Of all the scenes, chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words a writer writes--these emotion soliciting response portions are the most important. Because they are memorable.

Are you pumped???

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!


Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

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Jeanne Takenaka said...

I so enjoyed reading the snippets from published Alley Cats' writings. :) I'm still working on building emotional impact in my scenes. I loved your reminders that our characters will act as themselves, not in some prescribed way in different situations. :)

And your tips were spot on, Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thank you, Jeanne.
I had thought of another example but didn't have any more space to share. I read a story about a Russian agent who had a wife he dearly loved. Their relationship bloomed. Half way through the story we are in his small apartment when he hears news that she was killed. The extent of description without one word of telling took me into the sanctum of this man's sorrow. This, I thought, was how to immerse a reader into a scene. I haven't forgotten it and use it as an example.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So so cool, Mare!!! Thanks for including me in this wonderful post!!!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I had to! Your writing is that good!! :)

Sandra Stiles said...

I really, really loved this. I know writing passively and telling not showing has been an issue in my writing. I've worked hard on that. The timing of this post is so funny. I am currently creating a study guide for teachers for my book. I turned to my National Board Mentor for help since she is planning on using my book in her classroom. When I told her I knew I still had some issues with that in the book her reply was, "the emotional impact of your scenes overshadowed those mistakes." I still plan on making it better since I have grown as a writer. However, that and your post hit home. Thank you.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Sandra, that IS amazing. You know who is behind these odd timely comments/events? Yep, it's God. God has almost a humorous way of drilling an idea/task into our heads. Like popcorn the same theme pops up here and there and we wonder (I have, anyway), how it can be. Girl, you better listen!! LOL