Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Feeling in Fiction

It’s Writing Wednesday.

I’m feeling very frustrated. Last night I spent several hours writing a wonderful post and then Blogger had a hiccup and lost all my work. ARGH! Why does this happen when you least need it to? I could boohoo over this for quite a while, but I’m sure it would bore you to tears so I’ll get busy and try to recapture the brilliant piece I wrote. :0)

Something vital to good fiction is feeling. So how do you write feeling in fiction?

Putting emotion in your book is vital for your work to ring true and for your readers to care about your characters and, therefore, your story. If your readers are caught up in the feelings of your characters they’ll follow them wherever they go and even stay up nights to see what happens to them.

To put feeling in your story start at the basic level and that’s with your main characters; most importantly your protagonist. The reader wants to know his/her inner and outer conflicts, what he/she wants most in the world and what he/she fears.

To show this let’s create a simple character: Jane Doe. You can add all the descriptions height, weight, color of hair, eyes and such. I’m going to focus on what Jane Doe wants most. For this story she wants to earn a degree in business management so she can get a good job and provide for herself. This is a basic need everyone understands and is her outer struggle. Her inner struggle is worry that she doesn’t measure up and will fail. But what does she want more than this? To be loved and she fears being alone. Can you see how this shapes the character and makes the reader care for her beyond physical description?

Okay, now let’s push more feeling into the mix. To do this we need the help of cause and effect coupled with motivation and reaction. Let’s look at a brief synopsis for the first chapter in a book.

Jane Doe is attending college to earn her business management degree. She works for a CPA part-time. It’s April 15th at 11:30 P.M. Her boss hands her his most important client’s tax returns and tells her they must be postmarked before midnight. On her way she’s involved in a traffic accident. The handsome, single officer called to the scene believes she has a concussion and insists she goes to the hospital. As she is loaded into the ambulance she begs him to mail the returns. Will he or won’t he?

Cause and effect: tax returns must be filed on time or the tax filer will be penalized. Motivation and reaction is layered into the scene by the character. What motivates Jane? The cause and effect, but also the need to earn money and keep her job. What’s her reaction? To do it. She’s desperate to meet the dead line (outer struggle), but did you notice “the handsome, single officer”? Her reaction and the one that will hook romance readers is that she noticed him (inner struggle and subconscious reaction). Will he be her knight in shining armor and come to her aid not only in filing the return, but by becoming her love interest? He could be the answer to Jane’s inner most need and fear.

Feelings are very personal and go deeper than the mere sensation of touch. Feelings go to the core of your character. Cause and effect—motivation and reaction help you flesh out those feelings and makes them important to your reader. Now write the chapter. ;0)

Try this out on the next piece you write and see if it gives your fiction more feeling.


  1. Feeling is always something I worry I don't convey well. I thought you did an excellent job of it in Angel on Main Street.

  2. Great post, I have been considering for the last couple days putting together something very similar to this.

  3. David, I'd like to read your take on the subject. I'm always trying to learn. :)



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