Everyone’s heard the expression ‘Write what you know.’ I submit that instead, we should think about ‘Write what you feel.’
When we think about the best writing, whether it’s a favourite novel, or even an ad campaign, the best writing is always something that affects an emotional impact in the reader. When I think about a really good book, it makes me laugh, cry, and think, and those feelings resonate in me sometimes for days afterwards.
There’s something about feeling someone else’s pain, something that helps us work through our own pain. Knowing that there are other people out there who suffer from loneliness, fear of rejection, lost love, depression, frustration, all those negative feelings – knowing you’re not actually alone can help you work through those things. It can also help the reader to relate to the writing in a real sense.
There is no love without hate, no joy without pain, no triumph without struggle.
If you want to write something that will really touch someone, it’s about more than crisis resolution. It’s about understanding the emotional journey your characters undertake throughout the story.
Here are some points to think about when writing:
- What brings your character joy?
- Who has hurt your character?
- Does your character suffer from any psychological conditions? Depression? Anger management? Bipolar?
- Who or what makes your character feel hate? Aggression?
- What makes your character sad?
Sometimes a character’s motivations are more subtle, and sometimes more intense. Some of the most interesting characters have drastic personality disorders. I think of books such as the Game of Thrones series, which has such a myriad of differing characters with their own motivations, and I know the books would not have been nearly as effective without that emotional connection. George R. R. Martin is known for killing off his characters – but would it have as much impact if you hadn’t already connected emotionally with the plight of those characters?
Once you understand more about your character’s feelings, you can then think about the next step – what does your character do as a result of those emotions? What actions do they take?
- How does your character react to a situation that makes them happy?
- What does your character do when they’re sad?
- Does your character have an outlet in which they pour themselves when feeling emotional?
Next time you’re writing, try to take down your own internal barriers, and put yourself in the shoes of your characters. How would you feel if you were them? Pour those feelings into your writing, and it will bring your writing to a new place.