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How to Manipulate Reader Emotions

12 Feb 2017

We experience a vast array of emotions when we read a story. Half the time we probably don't even realise it. Many writers scratch their heads wondering how they can write a scene that will evoke such emotional captivation their readers are reaching for the tissues. But eliciting emotions from your audience is not just about whether you can make the reader cry. And by incorporating your puppet mastery to pull them this way and that among an array of emotional experiences it will actually help towards achieving that elusive pedestal of having the blubbing fans some authors tend to covet.


However, you might not want to reduce those fans to tears. Maybe you want them to fall in love, or shit themselves with fear. So, how do you manipulate them into all those emotional corners?

-Give your character a 'want' and get the reader to root for that want, then you're halfway there.


We want what the character wants, usually, even if it's not something we'd want for ourselves in real life, or even if their want goes against what we think we *should* want (if you're still following! )


Example: Game of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire series). We all hated Jamie Lannister when he pushed Bran off the tower early in the saga. Later on down the line we *love* Jamie Lannister, because he became a POV character – he was no longer just the villain opposing the heroes. He had a clear and definable goal (to protect the woman he loves and their children) and suddenly we want him to succeed in his goal. We’re rooting for him, which is the key effect a writer wants from the goal. Even when his goal is just to be by his sister’s side (and all that ick), which goes against what we think we should want. Get it?


Along with the 'want' of the story, we also get the 'don't want'. If the want is clear enough, what the character doesn't want should be plain as day, and so our emotions will react