Creating the Emotional Experience by Bronwen Fleetwood

We’re pleased to have a guest post this week by #RWChat regular, Bronwen Fleetwood!

You might think we read for artful plots, or to meet memorable characters, but both will fall flat if they don’t inspire emotions in the reader. This is especially true in romance, which promises to provide an emotional experience with a satisfying HEA. How to evoke emotion is a vast topic, but here are some tips to get your heart fluttering.

Identify the Emotion
What do you want the reader to feel? Anger at a character, joy at an outcome, sadness over a loss? For every scene, make a note to yourself of what the reader should be feeling. Some scenes may have more than one emotion, or have an emotional arc.

Create Empathy
Give your reader a reason to care about your character. The heroine’s dog died. That sentence doesn’t do very much for you, does it? The heroine’s beloved childhood companion, who faithfully followed her everywhere, died. The difference is that I set up the relationship between the heroine and her dog. Through the description we get a sense of how the heroine feels about the dog. When the character feels something, the reader can react to it, and feel something themselves.

Draw on Past Experience & Visceral Details
Actors are often told to draw on their past experiences to portray a scene more authentically. You can do the same. If your heroine is ecstatic, remember what it was like to be ecstatic yourself. What details stood out to you? How did you feel physically? Really dig into the visceral reactions you had. It’s these details that will make a reader say, “Yes! I’ve felt that way before!”

To learn more, check out 18 tips for Creating Emotion in the Reader, a guide to stimulus and Causes of Unemotional Writing & How to Correct Them, and Margie Lawson’s lecture series on Empowering Characters’ Emotions.

And don’t forget to join us for #RWchat this week!

Bronwen Fleetwood writes books for young adults, because those have always been, and often still are, the books that have made the biggest impact on her. She’s always been fascinated by fairy tales and myths, and always wanted to know why so many female characters get the short end of the stick in such stories–and in life in general. It must be all that “GIRL POWER” messaging in her youth. You can find her on Twitter @bronniesway or on

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