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Monday, March 09, 2009

Emotional Impact Checklist for Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Ever read a manuscript that seemed flat with no emotion to carry the story forward? I call emotion, the heartbeat of the story. It's the nucleus that holds everything together, like an electrical magnet. Without it, the story is boring, doesn't move me, and I can't stay interested or motivated enough to continue reading.

I wanted to share the following checklist you can use during the editing process to find emotional gaps in your story.

  • Does past experiences of your character affect his/her response to current events in his/her life? How does this happen? If you can't answer this question, you need to dig deeper into your character's background and internal reactions and show it unfolding in the story.

  • How does your hero show emotion? Men tend to make jokes, get quiet, walk away, work harder, deny their feelings, change the subject, get angry, but they rarely talk about it.

  • How does your heroine show emotion? Women tend to cry, have outbursts, express their feelings, unlike men they want to talk about it with someone.

  • For every event, conversation, discovery there will be a physical response and an emotional response. Did you show the emotional behavior instead of telling about it? Combine the physical response with the emotional response to show the impact of the emotion on a deeper level.

    • Example:

      Telling - She was sad.

      Showing - Moisture filled her eyes, and she lowered her gaze, rubbing a finger across the bottom of her eyelid. Soft sniffles penetrated the silent room as she inhaled a deep breath and wiped her wet fingers on her jeans.

  • Does your dialogue show appropriate emotion? It shouldn't be through a dialogue tag that tells how something is being said, but through word choice and sentence structure.

    • Example:

      Telling - "I can hardly believe it," she exclaimed.

      Showing - "Wow!"

  • Did you avoid cliches? Instead, substitute with words of imagery.

    • Example:
      Cliche - She floated on cloud nine.

      Imagery - She flew high like a kite out of anchoring string.

  • Did you use sensory to convey emotion to the reader? Where appropriate, your reader should be able to imagine or feel what your character is seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and touching.

  • Layering these emotional tips into your manuscript will give it more depth and meaning to the reader. It will help them to feel the story as your character feels life happening to him/her. The key is to make it feel real and you must do that by stirring more than just pure imagination, but the senses of imagination.

    And don't miss my interview today on Carolina Mama!


    That was great advice Jennifer. IF I EVER begin to write stories, I will remember this!

    Thank you for visiting my blog. Feel free to visit anytime. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Hi there!

    My name is Jaime and I work for Pump Up Your Book Promotions - - which is an online tour/promotions company for authors to get the word out online about their books. For a month, interviews with the author, guests posts by the author, and reviews of the author’s book will appear at various websites. Please forgive me for contacting you via your comments section, but I wasn't able to find where to contact you otherwise.

    I have an author, Donna Lee Schillinger, who is touring in April and I think your blog would be a great place for her to stop on her virtual tour. I am wondering if you would be interested in reviewing her book. You can find out more about Donna on her website: Conducting a Q&A with her and/or having her guest post are also options.

    I hope this all sounds good to you and I hope I hear from you soon.

    Thanks for your time!