Thursday, January 7, 2016

Writing with a Kleenex

I've received some wonderful complements on my writing this past month. It seems my short story, I Heard the Bells, included in the anthology A Bit of Christmas, has invoked tears from more than one reader. It is disturbing how much pleasure I derived making people cry. Much like the pleasure I take at making them cringe, making their heart race, or making them sweat.

Which got me thinking about how to best manipulate the emotions of readers, because after all, isn't that what they wanted when they picked up the book?

Lets talk about tears.

I discovered an interesting thing recently that has changed how I write my characters--especially the females. When a reader is invested in a character, they feel what the character feels (though thankfully to a lesser degree). So what happens to the reader when your character starts to cry? In essence, the same thing that happens to you most times when you have a good cry.

Emotion releases.

Which is great. If you are ready for your reader to release some emotion, let your character sob it out and move on with their lives.

Or you can keep that emotion and build it until closer to the end of the book.

Let the eyes mist, the sinuses burn, the headache build, but don't let those tears fall!

Take your character, and reader, to the brink, before giving them too much release. And remember, just because your character hasn't let herself cry, doesn't mean your reader has as much fortitude.

Also, make sure you take along some Kleenex when you sit down to type. If your story isn't wringing your guts, it won't effect your reader either. And please, for those moments of inner torture, show, don't tell! (Nothing like coming to those moments of high emotion in a book and having the author summarize it for you, instead of letting your feel it.)

But of course, this is all my opinion. :)

As a reader, do you prefer when the character sniffles it out through the book, or holds all that emotion in, building an "emotional" climax (not necessarily the "plot's" climax)?

 "I Heard the Bells" 
by Angela K. Couch

Three years ago, Gabriel Morgan left his home in Virginia to fight for the Union Army, despite his family and fiancee's loyalties to the South. Now, with battle fresh in his mind, and the Civil War still raging, he chances a quick trip home with one prayer... to make peace this Christmas.

Check it out on Amazon!
Or visit me at :)


  1. I have to say I'm torn on this one. There are some great books out there where the crying happens at the beginning (when Jack the bulldog dies in Banks of Plum Creek) and in the middle (Beth in Little Women) and tears near the end of bittersweet joy (Pollyanna). But I have to say, that I won't read a book now unless it ends well. I can't stand having a book's ending affect me sadly for days on end. I get too involved and then I'm sad and I can't remember I'm going to say...both?

    1. I agree there are some well written books where the crying happens beginning, middle and end. :) That said, when I say "emotional climax" it isn't the same as the book's climax and often happens earlier. Often the dark moment that brings about the change that pushes them to the end. If that makes any sense. I think the important thing, isn't "when" the crying happens, but that it's worth crying over.

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  3. Excellent post, Angela. Being a writer of suspense I probably go for the roller coaster of emotion. As you say in your post, building emotion in your reader is one of many challenges we authors need to learn.

    1. Thanks! I also think roller coasters are great for emotion as long as it's still an upward slant. Drop them, twist them, turn them, but continually build them. :)

  4. The year mum died seemed every Christmas book I read had either the death of a mother or someone dying. One had a small boy who couldn't remember the sound of his mothers voice and was upset. I was at the cricket reading and crying cos I too couldn't remember the sound of mum's voice. A few that year had me crying.

    Your book sounds interesting I learnt the story of I heard the bells on Christmas day this year which was written in 1863 at Christmas time. so your title interests me and I also have a fascination with the Civil War.

  5. I like to see an emotional climax at the end. I love a good cry. I'm actually highly disappointed if after hundreds of pages, I finish a book without shedding a single tear for its "people" :/

  6. It's surprisingly rare for a book to turn me to tears. Suspense and tension get to me, and I get caught up in the story-lines. But tears? Does that mean I'm getting hard-hearted? Or are writers not bringing across that emotion as often?