Evoking emotion in writing

don’t want you to tell me that your character is crying. I want you to make me want to cry.”

I’m currently taking a writing class with a wonderful Canadian author who also happens to be an extremely talented teacher, and I’ve listened to her say some variation of this comment on several different occasions.

No matter what sort of writing we do (emails, fiction, non-fiction, academic), appealing to a reader’s emotion is important, and some would argue that it’s the most crucial part of writing. Take Joss Whedon for example. In a recent episode of the Happier Podcast, co-host Elizabeth (a Hollywood screenwriter) shared some advice that Whedon gave her:

“Emotion and clarity above all else.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I heard it, particularly as I work on the third (fourth?) draft of my novel. It also fits in with this helpful workbook from writer extraordinaire Alex Franzen, which provides tips for deciding what you want your reader to Feel, Know, and Do as the result of your writing (and also helps with clarity).

I like the idea of thinking about the emotion that I want to evoke in my reader every time I sit down to write something, whether it be my novel or a form of science communication.

Any other writers out there place a specific focus on emotion when they’re writing? If so, I’d love to know how you do this.

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