5 Tips For Writing An Emotional Scene

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

I can write a fight scene like nobody’s business. A slapstick slip-on-the-banana peel piece of humor? No problem. But when it comes to penning an emotional scene, whoa baby. Those are super hard. Why? Because the emotions I feel in relation to what’s happening with my characters might not be the same emotions someone else would feel. Everyone reacts differently. The trick is to write the scene so that it appeals to readers across the board.
How can a writer pull this off? Never fear. Take a step back while I whip out a handy dandy list for you (and me) to follow . . .


Skip the Melodrama
Emotional scenes are important, but don’t focus too much time and energy on them. Don’t overdo it. Instead, play up the action and the consequence because that will allow the reader to experience the situation without spelling out those emotions. Readers are smart. They’ll know when a character’s goal is thwarted to automatically feel tense, or when a character’s loved one is hurt in some way, they’ll feel bad vicariously.

Keep it Tight
You don’t write pages of small talk or unending descriptions, right? So why write great discourses on your character’s emotions? Answer: don’t. It’s always the goal to keep the story moving forward. Don’t slog it down in the mire of an emotional scene.

Word Choice is Everything
Broken and ruined. Light and hope. The first few words are dark, the second set uplifting. Words carry powerful connotations, so don’t mix happy words into a sad scene or vice-versa. Keep your scene consistent by using specific words that correlate with the emotion.

Up the Stakes
For powerful emotions you need to have powerful situations. There’s got to be something at stake for the character in order to make your scene believably emotional. Give him a bad or worse choice to make.

Use Setting to Your Advantage
Tie your setting into the emotion to ramp up the intensity. Going for fearful? Night’s a good time for that. Lonely? How about paint the walls of the room blue. Excited? Perhaps there’s music playing in the background.

And last, but not least, always use the five senses to really tie your reader into the moment.

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5 Tips For Writing An Emotional Scene by Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

Write the scene so that it appeals to readers across the board.~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

Always use the 5 senses to tie your reader into the moment.~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

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Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.