More than a feeling! Successful techniques to help writers evoke reader emotion

In this edition of the Write Line

  • More than a Feeling: Evoking reader emotion
  • Craft Tip
  • Upcoming Workshops and Events
  • Editing Service Openings
  • Dear FreeX
  • Where are You Writing?


Reader emotion stems from character emotion, which stems from an author's ability and willingness to be emotionally authentic. Author emotion stems from empathy and immersion as well as self-understanding and truthfulness.

One effective technique: conduct a brave self-inventory of your own fears and desires; your secret longings; your social and political passions, etc. Give one or two of them to your character in whatever form seems best.

Emotionally effective writing pulls the reader into a deep emotional/psychological world, a concrete space that allows the reader's environment and concerns to drop away, replaced by character and story concerns.


  • Rooting Emotion in Character Physicality/Visceral Response
  • Conjuring Emotion via Metaphor/Figurative Language
  • Conjuring Emotion via an Expression of Specific Character Desires
  • Conjuring Emotion via Telling Action/Behavior
  • Conjuring Emotion via a Character’s Relationship to a Particular Landscape/Setting
  • Conjuring Emotion via a Character’s Relationship to a Particular Character
  • Conjuring Emotion via a Character’s Relationship to a Particular Object/Concrete Detail
  • Conjuring Emotion via Specific Word Choice/Language Sounds
  • Exaggerating Emotion on the Page


Even if your protagonist is victimized by some aspect of her life, try to show her demonstrating some level of agency, giving off some spark of hope, right away. That way the reader knows your character has it in her to challenge the status quo, face conflict, and follow dreams and desires that will carry her beyond her bleak circumstances.



IMPORTANT! There are only *EIGHT* seats left for the 2017 Breakout Novel Intensive (BONI) workshop. If you're interested in attending, register now!  

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Free Expressions is booking editing clients for November 2016 through January 2017

Our editing calendars are filling up fast, but we have openings, still, for select weeks in at the end of the year and beginning of next. Whether you’re looking for help in building a sound novel or want comprehensive feedback on a complete or partial MS, we’d love to work with you. We’ve helped hundreds of people achieve publishing—and sometimes bestselling—success. Let us help you put your best writing foot forward in the new year. 

Learn more about our editing services here:



Dear FreeX: Writers often don't want to hire an editor because they're afraid an editor is going to change or re-write their story. What is your response to this? -- WRITER

Dear Writer: I totally understand this concern, but any good professional editor--whether serving in an independent capacity or via a publishing house--should take the approach that the writer is the final arbiter of his or her work.

That doesn't mean we won't make plentiful suggestions, even reworking language in a text as an example. But that's really what it is: an example. A suggestion, which is attempting to get at a particular result.

As an editor, I work really hard to enter the world of a client's story, to understand my client's intention for the work, absorb the voice of the narrative, and to make my suggestions accordingly. Of course, there are times that my "ear" and the writer's may differ, and that's absolutely fine. It's not uncommon for me to receive a manuscript back and find that a writer made a change based on the spirit of a suggestion rather than the exact letter, and it works beautifully. In fact, that's exciting for me to see, because it shows an engagement in the editing process that still keeps the writer decidedly at the helm.

Thanks for your question!

Have a writing industry or craft question? Send it to us and we’ll answer it next month, here in this space. Send all your questions to:



This month’s pic represents Katherine Nyborg's view from her hotel window at the Breakout Novel Intensive Graduate Learning Retreat in Tampa, FL. 

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