Sparking Emotions in Your Readers

by Kathleen Freeman

You’re writing a scene where the POV character remembers pretending to perform in a circus with her brother.  Aw, that’s sweet…we think. Except for a mere mention of an event tells us nothing about the experience. Was it a good moment or a less than positive time in her life? We know she had a childhood and a brother. We know she was imaginative. Or maybe her brother was the one with the imagination? These are important facts, but as readers, we look to the details to inform us how this memory was relevant to the current situation. If a picture says a thousand words, we need the thousand words and more to paint an effective picture, set a mood, show her feelings and the events shaping those feelings. Without these thousand words, the reader won’t experience the “ah,” the “oh,” and the “yikes” of the scene.

So how do we spark these feelings in readers?

As writers, we gift people with exposition. We educate and edify by giving readers glimpses into the character’s psyche, for better or worse. We get the joy of exposing details. In those details, we help readers feel what our characters feel, for better or worse. Were brother and sister hand-in-hand standing on the backs of two horses? What were the horses like? Did the two children bend their knees as the horses cantered around the ring? Did the horses have wide or narrow backs, plumes of feathers on their heads? Did her brother steady her as she almost fell off the make-believe horse? What items did they pretend were horse backs? Mood—the feelings, the emotion—hides in tiny words and specific images.

This is a loving, supportive and positive scene, designed to make readers nostalgic and perhaps look forward to an upcoming reunion or ready them to miss a brother killed in a car accident.If your character misses her brother, ask her why. What, from the past, can showcase those feelings and help your reader step into your POV character’s shoes?  Ask and no doubt she will tell you.

Small changes in detail can have the opposite effect. What if her brother was a whip-wielding lion-tamer, flicking a willow branch in her face and cutting her lip? Perhaps he locked her in a “cage” for fifteen minutes that felt like hours? Such details set the mood for a different story—one about overcoming anger, or her struggle to forgive a brother who now needs her help.

Either way, these scenarios are powerful mood setters and ones that will help readers step into your main character’s mood—two different moods and, thus, impressions of her brother and childhood.

Is this manipulation? Do writers twist readers’ hearts like play dough, fresh and barrel-shaped from its yellow tub? Everyone has reasons for feeling the way they do—fair and rational reasons, whether they are “good guys” or “bad guys.” If you can find your characters’ motivations, reasons for feeling what they do, and explain these reasons to your readers, they will feel the “Oh.” They will also, likely, side with said characters and be willing to overlook some poor behavior and possibly even…stupidity.

Wonderland Wishes– Once upon a Christmas Starr

Miracles happen when you wish upon a Christmas star.

When Misty discovers Papa wanted to be an astronomy professor and gave it up to raise her, she signs him up for grad school and donates her savings to the cause. Unbeknownst to her, Papa has sold his telescope equipment so Misty can quit her ferry job and go to medical school. It’s love, sweet and simple, though a different kind than she feels toward Jack, the med student she meets on her shift. This “Gift of the Magi” retelling is a disaster unless wishes and prayers really do come true.

Kathleen Freeman – Ferry rides across the beautiful Puget Sound and exploring the rocky beaches of Washington are among Kathleen Freeman’s favorite activities. Always fascinated with physiology and the brain, she was inspired to become a brain surgeon after a Star Trek episode. She never pursued that passion, but does brain surgery of a different kind through her writing.  Once upon a Christmas Star is an unexpected nod toThe Gift of the Magi.

7 Character Non-Negotiables

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

What’s more important . . . plot or character? Yeah, that’s a loaded question. The answer is they’re both important. But today let’s focus on character.

To make a really great character—meaning one that sticks in a reader’s mind for a long time after they shut the book—you need to have a few essential elements. Okay, I lied. It’s more like seven.

1. Conflict

Is your character feeling like life is all rainbows and happiness and their pants aren’t digging in at the waist? Too bad. You’ve got to mess it up all up for him. Make it rain. Break his happy bones. Give him a weight gain of five hundred pounds.

2. Desire

What does your character want? He’s got to want something. A burp to ease his heartburn. A new Porsche. Maybe some Smart Wool socks because his toes are cold. What’s his goal and what’s motivating him to get there?

3. Confusion

Misdirect your character and you misdirect the reader. That’s a good thing. As long as you’re keeping your character guessing, you’re keeping your reader guessing as well. Just make sure to tie things up by the end of the story and make everything clear.

4. Credibility

Your character has to deserve his losses and earn his victories. Coincidence won’t cut it or your reader will slice you to pieces with a one-star review—a sharp, pointy, throwing-ninja star.

5. Flaws

Nobody loves a perfect character. They’re annoying. Every character needs to have some kind of flaw, even if it’s just a zit on the end of her chin. Okay, that’s annoying too. Don’t use that flaw. Make up a better one.

6. Cluelessness

Don’t make your characters all knowing, unless your character is God, and that seems kind of heretical. The point is that it’s fun for the reader to know something the character doesn’t. Makes the reader feel all superior and hey-look-at-me-I’m-brilliant.

7. Success

Every now and then your character needs to be successful. Yeah, you’re supposed to be upping the stakes, leading to a blood-gory climax, but along the way the reader needs a break. Put little park benches of wins for your character to give the reader a rest from the action.

Next time you’re working on an epic, make sure to include these traits in your main characters.

7 Character Non-Negotiable by Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet) 

What’s more important . . . plot or character? Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet) 


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Author Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

Serie-ous Work

by Kariss Lynch, @Kariss_Lynch

I love watching a good television series, especially one that has multiple seasons on Netflix. There’s something about watching a character enter the screen unsure and feeling incomplete before they are swept into an adventure that forever changes them. And every season, that adventure morphs and grows. So does the character, romance, and friendships. The trick is learning how to write a consistent point of view hero and heroine over the course of a series.
1. Show growth.

Just like you plot out growth for your character in one book and make that they can do something new at the end that they couldn’t at the beginning, so you must do for a book series as well. Your character’s personality won’t have changed but they will have grown in character qualities, shaped by the circumstances you toss at them. They must conquer some personal demon in the first book that is challenged again in the second book and built on as a new personal demon emerges.

2. Give them new problems and goals.

The best way to show growth is to give your character different problems and goals in each book all underneath the umbrella of the overarching story. In my Heart of a Warrior series, my heroine, Kaylan, is caught in a deadly earthquake in the first book and loses people she loves. She must come to terms with her pain and heal in order to move on. In Shadowed, the second book in the series, she has found a level of peace with a new state, job, and guy she is head over heels for, but now she has a new problem. She has fallen in love with a Navy SEAL, a man who voluntarily puts himself in harm’s way and may not come back alive from his deployments. This builds on her solved problem and growth in Shaken, but is now a new demon for her to conquer. I used circumstances in book one to create a problem in book two that creates more room for problems, growth, and setbacks as they move into book three.

3. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Frodo has to get rid of the ring. Luke must save the empire from Darth Vader and the Emperor. George Banks must walk his daughter down the aisle (I mean, it’s in the title – Father of the Bride). Even as you add new problems and goals, the main thing must stay the main thing, not only for each book in your series, but for the series as a whole. Each book needs to fit into the overall narrative. It has helped to create a new story outline and character chart with each book in my series. Many of the answers remain the same, but because the character has grown, they may have a new wound, a recently developed flaw, a new immediate goal, and different competing values. These new additions advance my characters and my story into the next stage of the adventure.

When plotting a series, do your best to get a loose, overall narrative on the page before you send that first book off to be published. Consistency is key when writing POV for the same characters throughout a series. Just like in seasons of a television or movie series, your characters have to grow, your problems have to increase and be different, and your story has to be consistent and end with a satisfying bang. And the guy has to get the girl. Somehow that always needs to happen, because that’s my version of a happy ending.

Serie-ous Work by Kariss Lynch (Click to Tweet)

Three Tips for Crafting a Series with the Same Characters by Kariss Lynch (Click to Tweet)

The trick is learning how to write a consistent point of view.~ Kariss Lynch (Click to Tweet)

Shaken by Kariss Lynch

Ready to change the world, Kaylan Richards leaves her comfortable life in Alabama to serve in poverty-stricken Haiti. But when the earthquake strikes, people she cares for are gone and she is left picking up the pieces. Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael never planned to find a girl he loved more than his country. Now she is a world away, trapped in a deadly situation. Will Nick’s love be enough to help her heal, or will her world forever remain shaken?

Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

The Closet Experience by DiAnn Mills

The Closet Experience
DiAnn Mills

Do you grab your readers by the hand and lead them into your character’s closet? Is she messy? What kind of shoes does she buy? Are they worn? What’s her favorite color?If not, you’re making a terrible mistake. Why? How can a reader encounter story without stepping inside the character’s closet?

A writer’s goal is for a reader to experience story vicariously through our characters. That means all of the assigned traits ensure the character comes alive. 

The reader lives her dream through the character

A friend or a fiend.
The character might greet them at the grocery or at work.
The character refuses to leave the reader’s mind.
Soon, if the writer successfully captures the reader’s imagination . . .
The reader becomes the character.

Now what’s required for the reader to be in that exclusive position? Here are a five ways to ensure your reader has an unforgettable magic carpet ride.
1. The writer creates a character whose motivation and resulting behavior fits backstory and temperament.

2. The writer understands deep POV and slashes through distancing the reader from the character. Through sensory perception that is up close and personal, the schism is eliminated. 

3. Body language, emotions, and dialogue subtexting fit the scene and are accepted as appropriate.

Don’t even try to tell me you’re loving this.

4. Every word is weighed to assure the reader is personally involved with the character.

5. The writer constantly searches for new ways to deepen the reader’s adventure.

My suggestion is to flip on the light in your character’s closet and invite in your readers. Those special people who read your books will thank you for it! 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at