Friday, 9 December 2011

Touching a reader's heart is hard

At least I find it difficult. Anger, I can do, frustration I can do, humour is easy, but touching a reader's heart so that he or she actually reaches for tissues? That's damn hard work.
There aren't many books that made me cry, but movies, oh hell, movies do the job. Why? Because they have the violins to emphasise the sad situation. Same goes with thrillers or horror; the bass and high pitched sounds of the violin will have you sit at the edge of your seat.
As authors we have to paint the picture more clearly, we have to draw the reader in so he or she feels like the character, as if he or she is in the book or has the scenes forming a motion picture before their eyes. A tricky job. I admit I had my fights with dramatic scenes in both books, No Wings Attached and Candlelight Sinner, but according to my Beta readers I've managed in the latter. One said I had her reeling for a moment and the other one told me yesterday that she actually was in tears. She said it's amazing how much you can get attached to the characters and worry with and for them. Not that I like making my readers cry, but it made me a little proud.

I think the problem for me is that writing those sob-scenes means to lay open a part of me. To write them I need to feel them, to picture them, which means I have to be sad, too. Rather annoying if you are in a happy place, to be honest; just press the button and be sad. Doesn't work that way, I'm afraid. If I were able to do that, I'd probably be an actor. One reason, by the way, to refrain to even try being one.

Bringing tears to a reader's eye, for me, is the ultimate writing challenge. You need the action, the words, the facial expressions, the gestures. Everything counts.

Here's what I do:

She sat down and cried bitter tears. <-- does that make you feel sad, too? No? Me neither.
She gasped, her eyes filled with moisture and her lower lip quivered. With one hand, she reached out to feel his pulse. Nothing. She couldn't feel anything. One tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another; until they build a steady stream. She didn't bother to wipe them away; instead she leaned forward and pressed her ear to his chest. "Please don't be dead, please don't leave me! I love you," she whispered desperately between her sobs. He lay still, the world -- her world  -- had stopped moving and only her weeps echoed through the room.

Okay, might be a bit over the top and I told you I'm not the best when it comes to dramatic scenes, but I'm getting better at it.

How do you write them? Do you find them easy to write or do you struggle, too?


  1. Don't try so darned hard Stella. I find poignancy works best, especially if you kill off a particularly 'nice' character. We're not talking murder here, far too unsubtle. Let them die among their nearest and dearest. :)

  2. Oh, Jack, you're so right. I think I will make many readers cry with the memoir for the iguana. I never lost a close person, so I don't know how this feels. Guess I've been very lucky.

  3. It really hurts Stella - trust me, I know.

  4. I can imagine and I'm not keen on experiencing it. Only lost my 15-year-old iguana and that was hard enough.