HOW TO CREATE EMOTION FOR YOUR MAIN
Seven Pounds with Will Smith, did you go see it like I suggested? If you didn’t then shame on you! (Not really, but you’re missing out).
My wife and I went to see Seven Pounds at the movie theater, and she almost walked out within the first ten minutes. It’s intense. It’s not funny…and it’s exactly what we needed to hear. What happens? I won’t tell you. GO SEE THAT MOVIE!
That said, we have to figure out a clever and precise way to create empathy for our character right from the start. Sympathy is not as critical? Why? Well if you’re writing a story to alcoholics about the dangers of drinking, then you can easily create sympathy, but what if you want to reach a wider audience? Then with empathy, that connection with people who have not had similar experiences, is harder to gain.
Make your character someone who we’re rooting for right at the beginning. We don’t care where Jacob Miller grew up. That’s the writing style of the past. We need to evoke emotion right out the gate.
Your reader needs to think, “I wonder what it would be like if I were in that situation.” Or, “That must be tough.” If you can entice those thoughts, then you’re doing your job as a writer. Describing background and history is a sword that we will fall on if we explain the details in the outset.
Which one of these makes you want to read more?
Jacob Miller was the kind of guy you’d never want to meet. He killed a man once, and now he was in jail, waiting to be released.
Jacob Miller stared out window of his cell, twirling a pencil, waiting for the day when he’d be released. He hadn’t been rehabilitated…only restrained.
Uhhh…yeah…someone might want to perform a psychological exam with the Jacob of the latter story. And guess what? You don’t even have to say that, “he’s not the kind of man you would want to meet,” because from the context of the second line, we can clearly see that.
What we’ve just done is created a sense of connection in the reader. Our stories should plant characters in circumstances where the reader bites her fingernails to see the outcome.
I had to execute a major revision on my book 1 when I realized that I created very little emotion in the first ten pages. I was compelled to tell the back-story rather than the story itself.
Please come back in two days more about this (as tomorrow is Independence Day here in America). Thanks!