Emotion is that little thing that connects us in a way that no other species seems to be connected. When you write, you want a connection with your audience. Emotions are your better tool to achieve that.
Readers identify with stories through the characters. They live the emotions of the happenings through their feelings. No matter the story’s content, the emotions make the reader relate. They will probably never meet an alien, but they will relate to the fear or fascination your human character feels in a story about aliens.
Character Emotional Development
We are constantly growing in every way possible, but it’s our emotional development that makes us who we are. The same is valid for your characters.
As a writer, you must go beyond their thoughts, and focus on their feelings. Feelings, believe it or not, imply some physical description. Where do you feel your anxiety? How does your body react when something good happens? Those are the universal feelings that make us all relate to each other. Words and thoughts can lie, emotions are real and universal.
It implies long-term changes. Your reader wants to watch a permanent change in the character they learned to love.
The complexity of emotion
A character must grow throughout the story. This growth must reflect in their emotions and emotional reactions. They can also have different emotions, or even change them due to some happening in a scene. However, they need consistency.
Your character is the same from the beginning to the end. They changed, but they are the same person. Their reactions and emotions should be constant. If you want a character to react very differently to similar situations in different parts of the story, you must justify that change. What made them change? Your reader needs to understand.
Emotion isn’t simply action
Maybe it is easier to understand this if you think about a movie. There are action movies that are about precisely that – action. Characters don’t grow much and at the end, you were at the edge of your seat by the action scenes, but… was it a good movie?
A lot of action is interesting and helps distract people. However, if that’s all you have to offer, your reader will eventually get detached and give up on your story. The action you provide must affect your character in one way or another, or your reader can’t relate. The lack of transformation will alienate your audience.
Problems reveal who you are
A person’s true reveals itself when they are in trouble. Or so people say.
Well, whether you agree with this idea or not, in which concerns characters, it is an unsaid law. How they emotionally react to adversity tells your reader a lot about them.
It is not the problem and its solution that make a great scene. It is the growth of your character while all of that is happening.
Stories aren’t scenes put in an order
Our life isn’t a straight line, where everything happens when it should, and we always react in a logical, rational way. So why should your story be?
Your readers are looking for a story that makes them feel something. More than that, they like to recognize themselves in it. When something unexpected happens in your life, you react. After the third time, your reaction will be different. Someone who has had a difficult life will respond to a bad thing in a different way from someone who has had a good life so far. And so should your characters!
These fluctuations and developments are what grab your reader. Yes, great scenes and unexpected happenings are great. Yet, they need an emotional reaction from the character. This is what will give the reader an intense and impactful experience.
Give them what they can’t experience
We like emotions and action, we like to feel in danger and to solve problems. We like transformation. In real life, there is no space for mistakes. There are no second chances when it comes to life-threatening situations. Yet, we like adrenaline.
Your readers look for something in a story they can’t always find in real life. A story is a safe place to deal with danger. It is a powerful emotional experience. So give them what they’re looking for.