There is room for tears in any novel. The difficult part is finding where they belong in the story. I know: it seems obvious. Emotional scenes where death is present, imminent, or recalled. A break-up in a romance novel. The depiction of a personal dream ending or lost or perhaps one coming true. Lots of emotion produce tears.
However, reading a novel can be, but isn’t always, a stoic experience. Alone or in a crowded environment like an airport, a Starbucks, or a busy park, reading a book can transform places into scenes, dialogue into quiet realities, and, if done well, can elicit unwelcomed or overwhelming emotions.
Guys, we know you’re not prone to cry. Especially when reading a novel. I must confess I take a bit of pride in having produced some hidden tears from males (and I mean some Type A men) who read my novel The Famous One. Bragging doesn’t become me, I know, so I will rightfully give any credit for producing genuine emotion from anyone to the Lord who inspires honest emotion. And therein lies the key, I think, to getting a reader all choked up. Honesty.
True emotion ratchets up reactions. Almost anyone can give a reader some emotional scenes. Whether the desire is to produce laughter, anger, romantic rushes, or abject sorrow, without the writer experiencing those emotions while writing – much like acting – it’s very hard to elicit the depth of response we need for those places in the story to resonate.
“Resonate” means it strikes a place in the heart that sends an identification with the character. We, as readers, understand what’s happening because we relate in some way to the experience. It’s real to us. It’s honest. We get it. We react.
I’m a sap. I cry easily. Some commercials leave me sobbing. I admit that. But given that information about me, you might be surprised to know it takes some gut-level and well-done emotion for me to cry when reading a story. Because I know what it takes to write that kind of emotion. And it ain’t easy. It brings up the feelings that produce those tears, and those are a reminder of deep and searing pain or unfathomable joy, and going there means the journey might take longer than we planned, might produce obstacles to capture and defeat, and might render us useless for a given time after completion of the passage.
The value of experiencing and recording those places in a story, those that ring true, those that garner the sought-after emotion, those that choke up the reader? Priceless.