Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Does Your Writing Give You Chills?

As writers, we want our words and stories to have an effect on our readers. But what about the effect they have on ourselves?

Chills and Pounding Pulses
Okay, so there's this one paragraph in my WIP that always sends chills down my spine when I read it. It's not frightening per se, just dramatic (at least to me). Whether or not this transfers to a reader or not is beside the point. The point is that it means I'm emotionally "into" my writing. I personally think that's a good thing. It's like a painting or other artwork without emotion invested--while it can be perfectly rendered, it can lack a kind of "soul," or personal connection.

Weeping, Weeping
A friend on Facebook the other day commented that one part in her novel made her cry. She'd gotten to the heart-wrenching part of her story. I believe weeping along with your characters is a good thing! If you, the writer, aren't dredging up the depths of your own feelings, it's less likely to impart that feeling onto the pages.

That being said, I tend not to be a weeper while writing OR reading. I can tear up and feel sad or aching, but I rarely let loose the floodgates and grab for the tissues. I'm still affected, just not in a full-blown way.

Amusing Ourselves
In contrast, I personally have a very light funnybone, and when I read published works, I can be amused by the simplest things. Funky coined words. Unique juxtapositions. Subtly sly dialogue. A surprising thought or expression from a character. I chuckle throughout the entirety of some books.

When I write, I always have these sections that *I* think are amusing or even hilarious. But humor is an atrociously subjective thing. Sometimes these passages are marked by my critique partners as funny (with "hahaHA" inserted in the margins), while at other times they are marked by comments of puzzlement, apathy, or even rejection. And while my agent admits my writing has humor, she still has no problem taking the axe to certain bits and telling me they don't work.

Also, sometimes our humor just doesn't work in a particular passage, even though it may truly be funny. Things like FLOW and PACING and MOOD come into play. Maybe the humor is too slapstick to fit into a somber tone. Maybe it's too flippant to fit into a serious romance scene. Even so, it may be that just the wording itself needs to be tweaked to make it work better; there's no denying that certain words--depending on their connotations, syllables, etc.--can lend a totally different atmosphere. I myself tend to undermine serious subjects with humor at times, for instance using comical verbs when a more sober one would be more appropriate (admitting it is the first step toward correction)!

In Sum
Does your writing give you chills, surges of excitement, chuckles, or leave you reaching for your tissues? It should. It's not a requirement, but an emotionally invested writer is more likely to get that emotion onto the page, and therefore elicit an emotional response from his or her readers. But even if not 100% of your readers react the same way (or react, period), at least you've put yourself into your writing, as an act of personal and emotional creation.

Is there a scene or passage in YOUR writing that makes you laugh, cry, or get chills?
Do your critique partners "get" your humor, or are they sometimes puzzled?
When you read, are you an outright weeper or do you react more mildly, like me?
How important do you think it is for a writer to be emotionally invested in his/her own writing--is it mandatory in order to obtain reader connection, or just an added bonus?


  1. I've wept reading my own writing before. Someone told me that if it makes the author cry, it will make the readers cry.

    Great post, Carol!

  2. I always feel weird when I go back and feel really emotional to my writing because I wrote it !

  3. I have passages that creep me out and others that make me laugh. It's whether it translates to the reader, I guess. What moves me might not move another.

  4. Hi, Carol,

    I couldn't agree more! A writer SHOULD be emotionally involved in their work. I know I am... And, yes, I laugh, well up, sometimes even quiver when I read my writing. Thankfully my CP'S get my humor and emotion. On my second novel, I had one CP actually stop reading the book for a day or two because it had affected her THAT deeply.

    Emotion is VERY POWERFUL and if used correctly in our writing you will "get" to your reader.

  5. Great post! if a scene doesn't make me feel anything, it's a pretty good sign that it needs to be scrapped:)


  6. My last book had some emotional scenes in it and sometimes it felt like I WAS the mc and experiencing what she was experiencing. Hopefully that made it all the more real.

  7. Yes!! Love this post! We DO need to get emotionally invested in our writing. If we think it's blah, then our readers most certainly will too. Sure it doesn't always translate, like you said in the humour part, but getting involved in our stories is paramount!

  8. I'm glad I saw this post. It connects to what I wrote today on my Facebook page.
    "I'm rewriting my first chapter in Steel Dreams (working title), but I can't write what I'm feeling. It's not there yet. I want tears when I read it, I want to feel the pain when I read it, I want the sadness, the shame, and the anger, the same feelings that overpowered me 21 years ago. I won't complete this chapter until I feel as though readers will feel the same emotions or, at least, connect to the written words."

  9. You betcha. If it did not, it wouldn't be worth my time. Great post!

  10. Chills, excitement, snickering, and/or tears are usually signs that things are going well in my writing. But what hits me as thrilling, funny, or sad might not touch a reader the same way. This works in reverse, too. It's always interesting. Great post!

  11. I definitely get chills and LOL at my writing sometimes. I make a point not to write anything that will make me cry - I don't like crying, though I do it all the time :)

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  13. I definitely believe a writer should be emotionally invested in her work. But like you said, what makes one person laugh or tear up, may not do so for the next person. Usually if a novel makes me really boo-hoo it's a sign that it will be one of my all-time favorite books. Great post, Carol!

  14. My writing does make me feel a myriad of emotions. As a writer, I do too. I rarely cry, but I often tear up just a little. The funny thing is if people tell me it's going to make me cry, I don't. I must steel myself against it.

    Side note, I hate when people cry a lot in a book. I'd rather feel their tears. When they cry too much, I actually find them weak an annoying. I'm so mean.

    Thought provoking post. I like your questions at the end.

  15. I have parts with chills and with tears -- but I need to work on the humor!

  16. It takes a lot to scare me, but I've given myself the creeps a few times. I've rarely made myself cry, but only a very few books have ever done that. Yet, like you, I laugh easily. I've even laughed out loud in public while writing certain parts of stories. A bit embarrassing, but I hope I can make the reader laugh like that too.

  17. I'm glad you're all moved in, Carol! :)

    Generally when I'm drafting I am very emotional, but during editing, I tend to be distant from the story and characters. I suppose it depends on which stage of the writing process I am on.

  18. I pulled out this old draft of a book and was thinking, "This is total rubbish." Then I started reading. My goodness. When the heart bleeds onto the page, can we help but be moved, poor writing or not? There is no substitute for raw emotion. =)

  19. Yes, my writing has given me the chills and amused me (in a good way). I don't cry much when writing, but that's mainly because the tears come when I'm thinking about the section in my pre-writing stages. It's definitely important for writers to be moved by their own books. Why else spend all that time on them?

  20. I just did a rewrite of part of my mg. It was more like a chapter book, so I had to be a bit brutal to one of my characters so the rest of them could help save him. I had a really hard time doing it. Even rereading it was hard, but I know it made my story better. :)

  21. Oh yes, there are a few part in my WIP that whenever I read back through I chuckle or tears from or I cringe. Recently my verse novel wip when in a direction I wasn't expecting and I had to get up and go for a walk to collect myself. Writing is so much fun!

  22. YES. It sure does. If it didn't, I wouldn't be able to go back to it time and again for edits, revisions, etc.

    Nice post! :)

  23. As a reader if I'm reduced to emotion then I know that I'm reading a writer who has substance. So yes, books should move readers to tears, laughter and emotion.


  24. I feel silly saying it, but some scenes totally get to me, emotionally. I guess that speaks to how people often writer for themselves, you know?

  25. I rarely weep when I read, but I do laugh. Most of my CP's get my humor, but I haven't written anything extraordinarily sad for them to read.

  26. Sometimes my critique partners will mark something in my manuscript as funny that I didn't intend to be funny. I'll take it though - humor is a great thing!

  27. Yes, I weep (full-blown) when reading some novels and I tear at those special places in my mss. Also, the chills are definitely there for me.

    But I always felt like it was akin to how a parent feels about their own kids. No one is more special than our munchkins! My mss are the same way.

    I've had some express the same emotions after reading my mss.


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