Writers wish to be read. What about readers? Have you asked yourself what readers want from your fictional stories or essays? Non-fictional readers are looking for different things.
I will tell you what it is: Emotions.
When they give you their time to read your words, readers are expecting a unique experience: an emotional one.
If you can’t give it to them, you failed. No matter how interesting your plot is or how complex and captivating your characters are if you don’t make your readers feel, you will lose them.
If you don’t believe me, answer this: will you keep reading a romance that doesn’t trigger you lovely emotions, passion or if an erotic piece, arousal? If you’re a fan of horror stories, would you review positively a book that didn’t give you a chill in the spine? If a fantasy book doesn’t transport you to another world, making you feel fascinated, curious and delighted, would you consider it a good book?
Emotion is the key to captivate your readers
More important than the emotion your texts will provoke in your reader is its intensity.
It’s my belief (and experience) that to write stories — fictional or factual — that emerge emotions, the writer must be vulnerable.
I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. ~~ Stephen King
If you’re afraid to expose your emotions, to reveal your inner self, you’re stopping yourself from creating involving pieces of writing.
I’m not telling you to write about your own emotions — which you can, of course. In this context, I’m saying for you to write emotionally; to use your emotions as a boost to your writing.
Readers don’t want to read about other’s feelings: they want to feel by themselves.
Your readers want to be someone else during the time they’re reading — no matter if it’s the charming main character, the mad friend or the bad guy. Your reader wants to feel how it is to live a true love story, to be a detective chasing evidence fed on adrenaline and sleepless nights. If you give him that, you have a loyal fan.
How to make readers feel?
In his book The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald Maass asks the question “How can I get readers to go on emotional journeys on their own?”
His starting resumed answer (all the book is an answer to the question) is this:
Readers may believe that they’re living a story along with its characters. Actually, they're not. Readers are having their own experience that is merely occasioned by what’s on the page (…) The novelist is not causing readers to feel as the novelist does, or as his characters do, but rather inducing for each reader a unique emotional journey through a story.
It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? When I first start writing, my characters always mirrored my feelings. In a way, they still do it: my characters, either from books or short stories, drink from my emotional fountain. The difference is that now I use my emotions as a reference, not as the centre of the piece.
Writing fiction, my emotions guide my writing but aren’t the priority. I’m no longer, as before, the most important part of the text: my characters are. They are unique, a product of my imagination but with their own personal life and feelings (I guess only fiction writers truly understand the depth of this statement).
My characters are not me. Their emotions are fed by mine, but they are never me.
Writing our character’s emotions is the essence of intimate storytelling. ~~ Donald Maass
It’s al about the character’s emotions. Not yours, not of the readers: of the characters.
Next time you open a blank page, either to write a book (NaNoWriMo is coming!), a short story or a personal essay, be vulnerable. Let your emotions fuel your writing. But keep your distance, give space to your characters to grow by themselves.
Make your readers feel, give them emotions. They will come back for more.