“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost
In my last post I wrote about the power of emotion. I’d like to expand that conversation in this post.
To lay some groundwork: Chemistry, physics and aerodynamics are driven by facts. The day to day of our interactions, one person to another is not. We are emotional creatures (yes, even those highly analytical types break down in tears over a movie, a song or a new grand child). Even when we purchase something it’s an emotional decision—we may think we’ve gathered all of the facts, but in that second of decision, it’s emotional.
Most books are written by humans, and for humans. It’s inevitable that good writing, then, is driven by emotion. And, the secret is, if you want people to pay attention to what you are writing, don’t try to make them think, make them care and let them feel the emotion and passion behind what you are writing.
Now, if you are writing about something in history—either fiction or an illustrative story in non-fiction—getting the facts straight is highly important. But the value to the reader or the value that creates the highest amount of reader engagement, is usually determined by the emotional circumstances surrounding the facts.
Consider television ratings. They are basic facts about the viewership of every show. However, if you are personally hooked on a show, you don’t really care how it ranks. You want to watch it and you’re incensed when poor ratings force the network or Cable channel to cancel it. Right? Facts go out the window because you, like most people, love to be emotionally attached. It’s the drama, the conflict, the irony, the characters that surround some facts.
Fellow writers, your and my readers love drama and they hate boredom. The majority of the time they are looking to be engaged emotionally, even in a non-fiction book. They don’t want a bunch of statistics and cold, hard facts. They want story and that story will help them link the facts to what you are saying, recommending or telling.