Adding Emotion to Your Writing

In fiction writing, one of the most important things to include is emotion and emotional depth to your characters. You want to be able to convey what they’re feeling, whether it’s turmoil or joy, without summarizing what’s happening in your story while it’s happening. This flaw is what can turn great novels filled with fantastic ideas to only mediocre novels, littered with poor writing.

The first tip I would suggest is taking advantage of the connotation of the word you’re using to describe the emotion in your character. You can make the readers feel certain emotions without spelling it out for them–they won’t even realize that you’re making them feel this way. Let’s take the emotion anger. Anger is in almost every piece of fiction writing because it increases character development and plot development.

There are different layers of anger. There is screaming-and-crying anger, the cold-and-brooding anger, and so on and so forth. And, of course, there are different words to describe the different layers. Here’s an example:

As Katie’s brother continued to knock on the bathroom door, she rolled her eyes in annoyance and resumed finishing her makeup.

The word in that sentence that conveys the emotion Katie is feeling would be “annoyance.” Annoyance is a subset emotion of anger, so it suggests that she is not happy with her brother to continue knocking on the door without saying explicitly, “Katie is not happy with her brother knocking on the door.”

Another trick that I recommend using would be emotionally-loaded words. Let’s take the general emotion of confusion. In longer works of writing, at least two characters go through confusion at some point. But, varying on the author’s discretion, the characters could be going through two completely different emotions. Here’s an example:

Amanda was apprehensive about trusting her neighbor’s suggested plumber considering she sees the plumber’s car in front of their house every other week.

As you can see, Amanda is being cautious about her decision to call that certain plumber. This gives her character a wary feel, and makes the reader think she would be the kind of character to think things through. Then there’s this example:

Edith was overwhelmed when her professor assigned three chapters to read less than a week before their midterm.

In this example, Edith can be seen as two options: the scatter-brained college student with too much work to handle without an overload of stress, or someone who doesn’t wish to complete the work they are assigned.

Apprehensive and overwhelmed are both synonyms to confusion, but have very different meanings when used to describe characters. By using this technique, you can make the reader see your characters in the way that you want them to.

At the end of the day, a writer’s job is to make his/her readers feel something, whether it be emotions towards the characters or for the characters. You can choose which option you want to apply to your work by just being wise about which words you use.

Thanks for reading! Love,

Kaitlin