How to Hook Your Readers with Character Emotion

Paint chipOn the Education.com wall, I spotted a teaching aid made out of tri-toned paint chips. Each paint chip was labeled with an emotion, for example “scared.” Then each color value was labeled with a more or less intense version of said emotion. This meant that the lightest tint on a green paint chip labeled “scared” might be labeled “worried,” the medium tone “afraid,” and the most saturated “terrified.”

There was a whole stack of these paint chips each for a different emotion. Sad. Angry. Happy. They had been made up to help children understand “shades of meaning,” or what to call it when you’re a little scared vs. really scared.

That’s when it hit me.  Writers need to have an equal awareness of emotional intensity.

If I write a piece with my character emotions in the “tints” the entire time, it is going to be very quiet.  That might be ok, but it might also mean that I need to intensify the emotion.

If, on the other hand, I write a piece in which the characters are always elated, terrified or furious, I’m going to wear my reader out.

To read more about my musings on character emotion, check out yesterday’s blog post at the Muffin.

–SueBE

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