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The Emotional Connection | Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, Creativity and the Writing Process, Uncategorized | 17 comments

The Emotional Connection | Author Toolbox Blog Hop

I am knee deep in the revisions of my current WiP—a sequel to my debut fantasy novel The Healer’s Rune—and I’ve come upon a problem. Although my plot is technically correct, the story itself lacks the spark of life. This is not an uncommon problem among authors, so I turned to two Internet-based writer’s groups that I belong to for help. In the course of the discussion, I was introduced to The Emotional Craft of Fiction by literary agent Donald Maass.

In the opening pages of this writing resource, Maass states: “The most useful question is not how can I get across what characters are going through? The better question is how can I get readers to go on emotional journeys of their own?” (2).

Maass goes on to argue that, although a manuscript can be well written and technically correct in every aspect of plot, those characteristics don’t guarantee that readers will be caught up and carried away by the story. He proposes that what is lacking in this instance is an emotional connection.

Ah ha! I thought. This sounds like exactly the problem my manuscript is suffering from.

My guess is, I’m not the only one. If Maass is right when he states, “Emotional impact is not an extra. It’s as fundamental to a novel’s purpose and structure as its plot. The emotional craft of fiction underlies the creation of character arcs, plot turns, beginnings, midpoints, endings, and strong scenes. It is the basis of voice” (4), then the emotional impact of our stories is something all authors should look at more closely. But where to begin?

In The Emotional Craft of Fiction Maass proposes three primary paths to producing emotion in readers. He calls them “inner mode,” “outer mode,” and “other mode.”

  • Inner mode involves the telling of emotions – authors repot what characters are feeling so effectively that readers feel something, too.
  • Outer mode involves the showing of emotions – authors provoke in readers what characters may be feeling by implying their inner state through external action.
  • Other mode involves causing readers to feel something that a story’s characters do not feel themselves.

Maass does not spend a lot of time on inner mode and outer mode. While he discusses them in sufficient detail in chapter two, and includes advice on how to wield them most effectively, he postulates that writers are already most familiar with these two modes. With this in mind, he devotes the rest of the book expounding upon what he calls other mode, which he says is not a single technique or principle, but a “vast array of elements tuned like the instruments in an orchestra to create a soaring emotional effect” (30). He spends the remainder of the book detailing these elements and includes writing exercises to help authors develop or enrich the emotional levels of their current works in progress.

As I write this blog, I am half-way through Maass’ book. Working through each of the writing exercises has helped me discover and develop the missing spark that my work lacked, and I am once again excited about my current WiP.

How about you? How important do you think developing an emotional connection is to the full development of a novel? How easy or difficult is it for you to include/develop the emotional layer of your work?

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