Friday, May 18, 2012

Writing for Emotional Impact

My post contract splurge was to get 2 writing craft books. Fiona Harper is my new go to guru for finding great craft books. She recommended Dara Marks Inside Story and it has been on my wish list for awhile.  I plan to spend awhile reading it...but when I ordered it from Amazon, I noticed another book -- Writing for Emotional Impact by  Karl Iglesias.
His basic premise is that is it is not about plot points, it's not about act structure, it's not about character, but it is all about EMOTION.. in paritcular delivering emotion to the reader. His book is on how to create the WOW! feeling. It is a book full of techniques to create empathy and emotion. Many of them I already use but it is good to see them written down. And I do so agree that story telling is about delivering on the emotion. If you can get the reader to emotionally connect with characters and feel satisfied at the end, they will keep coming back for more.
He goes through many movie points and explains the various tricks. For example why is Melvin in As Good as It Gets not a thoroughly repellent character. He is obnoxious, rude and the audience has sympathy for him as he struggles to overcome his OCD. They are techniques rather than rules. It is about understanding the nuances and playing with  the palette of emotion. It is also about how you show those emotions and traits. Iglesias goes into the six ways you can reveal character on a page. He also explains about high concept and concept. His explanation of back story and The Ghost (or unhealed emotional wound) is so clear cut that I wondered others hadn't done so before. I have sat in workshops, muttering under my breath -- that not all back story is important or created equal. And I loved his quick way to get to the heart of any character.
It is not a beginning writing book and if you don't know that much about structure, you need to read something else first. But it does dovetail a lot with Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint.
I think it has been worth adding it to my tool kit.
I do worry about getting enough emotion on the page, but not so much that it becomes unbearable. There is a balance to be struck.
I am also mindful of Twyla Tharp's analogy of polishing the clock. You have to keep working on different things so your skills don't go rusty. It is all about continually improving your mastery of craft so the reader can have a better emotional experience when they read the book (or manuscript). It should be remembered that your first reader is always a jaded agent or editor and it is all about making that connection.


Amalie Berlin said...

Lovelove Writing for Emotional Impact. It's fantastic, and spawned my first ever book review on my blog. Love love it. So many lightbulb moments...

Michelle Styles said...

Amalie --
Great to know other people have enjoyed the book. I think combining it with Orson Scott Card makes a lot of sense. It is easily digestible.
Sometimes it depends on how the author accents his advice and whether or not it resonates with you.

Anna Adams said...

Michelle, you're my go-to guru for craft books, so I'm always excited when you talk about one on your blog. Congrats on your new contract! And thanks for the recommendations! ;-)

Michelle Styles said...

You are welcome Anna. If you buy the book and send Iglesias a copy of your receipt, he will send his emotional thesaurus. It has just come through and looks very interesting. It goes with Collins's idea of emotion as varying shades and how you change the emotions without jumping radically.

Anna Adams said...

Thanks, Michelle! I did buy, so I'll do that!