Writing Craft

In Search of a Story’s Emotional Center

We all want our readers to connect with our stories. We want them to feel something, whether that’s suspense, hope, fear, motivation, sadness, encouragement, despair, love, happiness…any number of emotions that humans are able to feel. And through the course of your novel, readers are bound to feel many different and probably opposing emotions as they travel along your character’s journey.

We know this. It’s one of the things that makes writing fun. I mean, who doesn’t love to send their readers on an emotional roller coaster? But even though we want our readers to experience emotional highs and lows, we need to be sure they find a common emotional theme throughout the story—your story’s emotional center. 

In order to figure out what it is, it’s important to ask yourself this question: What is the heart of this story? What message do I want my readers to take away? What do I want my main character to hear or think throughout their journey in their heart of hearts?

This central message may be obvious to the character. For example, it may be an actual message from another character in the story that they need to remember. Like, stay true to yourself or dream big or respect is a two-way street. Or it may be something that they need to learn. Either way though, there should be hints along the way that reinforce this message. Not preachy hints, but subtle ones that are woven into many scenes at just the right times.

How to weave this message into your manuscript is a topic for another post. For now, it’s more important to make sure your story has one and that you are crystal clear on what it is.

My writing group met last night, and this was a topic our presenter talked about. It hit home with me enough that I realized I need to take a look at my current manuscript and zero on its message. 

So, that’s my focus for this weekend…evaluate my own manuscript and shine a spotlight on its emotional center. I have a general idea of what it is but is it specific enough? Is it emotional enough? I’m not sure. I have a suspicion that it’s not though so I may have some deep thinking to do. Knowing this information will absolutely make the plot tighter and my MC’s journey mean more, and I know it will help yours too.

Besides, February is the month of love, so I think it makes sense that we dig deep over the next few weeks—think about what exactly is at the heart of our stories. In the end, our readers will thank us! 

I hope this information helps you. So many thanks to my friend, author Keely Hutton for reminding me how important it is. Her presentation, on how she found the emotional center in her latest book, Don’t Look Back, was amazing and also inspiring. It’s motivated me to keep working at making my manuscript as strong as I can. I hope, by passing this tip along, I can do the same for you!

Until next week…stay warm! It’s currently 5 degrees here. Yikes! Maybe this cup of chai will help. Oh, and BTW, best of luck with finding the heart of your story too.