As writers, we find our voice in our work. It is a priority of a thoughtful writers to make sure they connect with their readers and leave an impression upon them. Here are a few tips to not only make your writing stronger in 2018, but also far more vivid and emotive!
Be a Creator of Tension/Drama
The first thing to remember when creating tension and drama is the satisfaction of your protagonist. What are his goals, his intentions, his dreams, his ultimate endgame? Then build a world of difficulties around him. Sounds cruel, doesn’t it?
The way to be cruel build a world of difficulties around your protagonist is to infuse his trek from point A to point B in his plans with flaws in the system of his world and conflict between him and other characters whether they are main characters or supporting characters.
These difficulties need to create a world of hurdles in which your protagonist has to navigate (either intelligently or haphazardly) in order to overcome. One difficulty is not enough. It is best to have multiple issues that arise over the course of the story in the form of changes, twists, and turns. This is true even for comedies and all other genres of stories.
***Keep In Mind: a powerful protagonist is only as powerful as his antagonist and his antagonist can be a force of any kind that comes against him. An antagonist does not have to necessarily be a person. It can be a group/system (i.e. V for Vendetta, I’Robot, The Shawshank Redemption, Avatar). A disease (i.e. earlier seasons of The Walking Dead, 28 days later, and Contagion). Financial difficulties/Mortality (i.e. Breaking Bad). You get the idea, right?
So let’s say your protagonist is a young woman who realizes that an acclaimed medical specialist is actually a Dr. Jekel using unethical practices in his work and she wants to expose him. Should it really be that simple?? Heavens no that would be boring! So, think of everything she will need to actually expose the doctor: evidence, witnesses, a significant connection to the media or the FBI, and some wise allies. Now think of every roadblock that you can to muddle the course of her mission.
That evidence may be on computers in the specialist’s lab, but they are encrypted.
She may be able to get a meeting with a key witness (one of the doctor’s past victims), but the key witness turns up dead. Upon learning this she receives a cryptic message that alludes to someone watching her and that her nosiness will now cost her, her life. Now you have the potential for more drama…a cover-up and a murderous system.
At that end, another tip for creating tension/drama is raising the stakes for your protagonist.
“If the stakes on the story are low, then the tension will be weak.” ~ Jessica Page Morrell
In the story example, I have given of the young woman trying to reveal the unethical practices of an acclaimed doctor and his henchmen resorting to murder in order to cover his tracks…the stakes have been raised. The young woman’s life is now in danger. She now MUST conquer the antagonist for her life and lives of the rest of his victims.
See how dramatic that would be?
As writers, we need to be masters of playing with people’s emotions. Draw them out, at times stomping on them, wringing them out, lighting them a blaze, making them flutter with glee, or even make them gag with disgust…it really all depends on the story. The best stories pull you in and engulf you so deeply that when you finish that last page you feel like you just came up your first breath since you started Page one. It should make us see the world, humanity, and potentially ourselves a little differently. Here are a few techniques to making your writing a work that elicits emotion:
Create enough tension in your story (notice that word tension again) and also create a protagonist that readers can identify introspectively with and desire to see succeed. Easier said than done. Let us dive a little deeper.
Emotions and introspection go together like butter and bechamel. Characters are the medium authors use to get readers to feel through. The key word there is through. Allow readers to process the emotion of your characters by assessing their struggles and how the character feels through it all and how they are psychological processing the events that have affected them. Think of empathy as the link between your readers’ emotions and your character’s emotions.
Reveal how your character is feeling in mundane scenes (best in character driven stories, but can be used in any genre) and in sequel scenes (best in plot driven stories, but can be used in any genre).
Sequel Scenes ~ These scenes normally occur AFTER a particularly dramatic scene or a series of these scenes which culminate in a devastating reveal or reversal. Per author David Corbett via the Writer’s Digest (http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/emotion-vs-feeling-evoke-readers). These scenes allow characters and readers to simultaneously take a breather and process what has just happened.
From the character’s POV have him register and analyze the emotional effects the dramatic change, reveal, or reversal has had on him or those he cares about. Next, have him consider the meaning of what has happened. Then, have him make a plan of how to move forward and progress. (Corbett, IBID)
While doing this analysis make sure that the character’s POV includes an even deeper analysis of the motives behind their response to the situation. Do they sense that their response is right or wrong? Do they think that they made it worst or better? Do they feel that they escalated the conflict when they did not have to? Do they blame themselves for not trying hard enough even if in fact they did? Or are they proud of themselves for hard they fought and that they succeeded?
***Keep In Mind: Delve into the cognitive reaction, ebbs and flows of your character that is the way elicit emotion from your readers.
Mundane Scenes ~ Our mental state often comes through even when we are doing mundane activities. Use these moments to elicit emotion from your audience, but first put your audience into your character’s shoes so they really understand and can empathize.
Imagine a character that is frustrated with life, he feels he has no future, trapped in a loveless marriage, stuck at a dead end job, and cannot advance in life….essentially your protagonist feels he has no future and he is just withering away waiting to die. What could be the best way to portray this? Describe it flat out? Noooooo. That’s boring!
Instead take your audience through the average day of this hopeless man. Show them how dull his office job is, how his boss makes snide, belittling comments to him, how his car operates on what could be it last leg. Give them a glimpse into how indifferent he and his wife’s communications are with each other. Show how sick he is of microwaveable meals for dinners, commuter traffic, lukewarm coffee, and cheap dress pants. Show how he is a man just barely holding it together. Then when seemingly the most insignificant annoyance happens…have him friggin’ explode.
What is this insignificant annoyance? Make it so small readers will have to understand that the only way someway can explode about something so small is either pure insanity or an insane amount of internal pressure. Because you will have already put the readers in your protagonist’s shoes they will know that it is indeed the latter.
Use these two tips for creating more powerful and memorable literary works to bring your writing to the next level!
All the Best Writers,
The Novel Gent