November 9, 2015

Guest Post: 12 Techniques for Emotionally Connecting with Your Readers

A writer must have the ability to connect with readers at an emotional level. This requires a certain level of intuition. Establishing an emotional attachment between readers and characters goes slightly beyond the technical factors inherent to quality writing. You will need to think like your reader, or more importantly, like a human being. You are probably already aware of the necessity for a deep grasp on an innate sense of humanity when writing but you may not be sure how to best achieve this level of comprehension.

Throughout my own writing endeavors I have either learned or discovered twelve tactics to aid in the successful association between fictional emotional iteration and real life emotional experience. That experience being the kind we all share as human beings. In fact, for the duration of this article keep in mind that, with the exception of the occasional psychopath, everybody feels emotions in basically the same way.

  1. Setting: 
    • Creating an appropriate setting for a scene is a basic requirement for projecting emotional intensity. The reader will be able to relate as he has likely experienced the mood invoking power of a similar setting in life. An extreme example of this would be a haunted house. The point being that through correct use of color, sound and locale; setting becomes a powerful tool for emotionally connecting with the reader.
  2. Sense:
    • The five senses are our window on the world. Use this fact when you describe how your characters interact with the world you have created for them. How does the wind feel on their face? How does the infant that won't stop crying affect the character? We have all made associations with the world around us based on our senses and most of those associations are universal. Use that fact to relate to your readers.
  3. Time:
    • Time can be a great way to express an emotional state of being. When we are rushed the mood is tense. You've seen the movies where there is only 30 seconds left to disarm the bomb. Conversely, when we have plenty of time we may feel relaxed or bored.
  4. Vocabulary:
    • Vocabulary choice can be a clever way to project a feeling upon the reader without them even realizing. Use powerful words such as "triumph" instead of more plain sounding words such as "win." Also try noting the proper places to use soft or hard sounding words like "rub" vs "scrape." If it will not offend your target audience, then toss an occasional swear word into your character's dialogue. Be careful though, just as in real life, a strategic swear word will indicate emphasis but too many will come across as abrasive.
  5. Transitions:
    • Use scene transition to convey emotions. The safety of an airplane followed by a tense descent and subsequent crash landing. The relief when the reader learns no one was seriously hurt followed by the extreme fear when they realize they crashed on an island full of cannibals. This type of literary roller coaster ride will keep the reader in constant anticipation of the next scene while supplanting their own emotions based on a sequence of events in their own life that may have followed the same pattern.
  6. Realism:
    • All fantasy needs a basis in reality. For real people to connect with your characters at an emotional level your characters will need real flaws. People that seem perfect in real life are annoying and so too will your perfect characters appear annoying in your story. Analyze the personality traits of your characters closely so you can choose flaws and struggles that correspond to a similar personality type in the real world. The reader will recognize this personality type and make a mental connection to themselves or someone they know.
  7. Consequences:
    • The obvious advice in regards to consequences would be to make the actual consequences themselves realistic. At a basic level this means the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Even though this is not always the case in life, we as people can see definite patterns such as hard work paying off and thieves suffering karma.

      The less obvious piece of advice related to consequences would be a recommendation for the use of expressive language to make your reader feel the consequential emotions that affect your character as a result of some action or event in the story. For example, instead of writing: ìCarrie is excitedî, write: ìCarrieís heart began to beat intensely as the adrenaline surge through her body reached her brain when she read that last lotto number aloud. Just reading that example sentence got me thrilled as to what would happen if I won the lottery. Artfully describing a familiar emotional consequence will force your readers to reflect on similar feelings they may have had with an experience of their own.
  8. Milestones: 
    • When you write the interactions amongst your protagonist and the supporting characters, make sure these correlations lay out emotional bonds whether these bonds be good or bad. You want your reader to recognize these bonds from their own life when they are reading about the history of a milestone for a particular character. Those bonds will play an important role in allowing the reader to understand why that milestone is so emotionally impactful on your character.
  9. Allusion:
    • Place little clues throughout the book that give some indication as to what the reader can expect. This will keep them holding on for the next chapter. Occasionally shock the reader with something unexpected.
  10. Choices:
    • We can all relate to an indecisive struggle with choices we've had in our own lives. Give your character a couple of those. Another powerful concept involves forcing the character to choose between bad or worse. Does he or she rob a bank or let a loved one die.
  11. Conflict:
    • Keep conflict constant. Even if it's between and character and himself. Utilize conflict heavily throughout your story. This does not have to be conflict between two characters. It can mean a struggle the character is having in his or her mind.
  12. Familiarity:
    • This tip could also be referred to as history and is really the basis for this entire article. A familiarity between reader and character at multiple facets of being is a definite prerequisite for making emotional connections. The reader must be made aware of a character's history before he or she can truly feel empathy for a character's struggle.

There are many factors that go into writing a great story but perhaps none more important than the ability to emotionally connect with the reader. By incorporating these techniques you will be laying a foundation for building a complex emotional structure for your characters. And remember that establishing real world familiarity for this structure is the most vital element necessary for leaving a lasting impression on readers.


James A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full service self-publishing company that specializes in transforming author dreams into reality. We have been providing exceptional and affordable service to writers for the past 15 years. No matter what type of book you want to create, Instant Publisher will be with you every step of the way to ensure the process is efficient and painless. We're not happy until you're happy.


Friendly reminder: everything expressed in the post above is a reflection of the opinions of the author, James A. Rose, not necessarily those of Aria Glazki.
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