Engaging your reader

It’s Friday! Welcome to the GWN blog. Today we have Mary Marvella talking about engaging your reader.

Here’s Mary!

I gave my first ever workshop to a group of writers early in June. I did my first ever PowerPoint presentation.  I do not play well with computers or other technical stuff, but I managed to create slides of participants’ beginnings with my comments and suggestions added.  Most of the writers made the same mistakes. They summarized.  They didn’t draw me in or make me care. When I explained they needed to create scenes so I could experience them with their characters, the writers seemed surprised.

When you have a story to tell you need to decide who is telling the story and how that character feels. Then you must show me how that character feels, hears, smells and tastes.


Billy was always in trouble.  Telling.

When Billy wasn’t tying his daddy’s shoes laces together while he slept, he tormented the cats by tying bells around their necks.  Showing some.

Billy crept up on his daddy sleeping in his recliner and snoring away. Daddy smells like cigarettes and sweat.  As carefully as he could, Billy tied the stained tennis shoe laces, glancing up to make sure no one was watching him. His stomach did a funny dance until he finished. Still silent but laughing inside, he slipped  around a corner and waited.

Do you want to know what happened?  Not telling.

Even memoirs needed scenes.

Stories and nonfiction books must have take aways to make me want to read.  If I can’t relate to the feelings of the characters or the author in some way, I will stop reading. I must feel there is a message for me somewhere in the pages, even with children’s stories, or especially in children’s stories.

As an editor, I need to feel something as I read. Let me into someone’s head or I’ll be bored.  Engage me and I’ll read all night!

Check out Mary’s website: www.MaryMarvella.com
Mary blogs here: www.pinkfuzzyslipperwriters.blogspot.com

Cindy here again! 

Thanks for being here, Mary! The third example was definitely more engaging.

Happy writing!



Resources to Help You Tap That Emotion

Welcome back to the GWN blog! Today’s post is from C. Hope Clark about one of the most important aspects of writing. Emotion.

Here’s Hope!

Your character is hiding, and the antagonist knows she’s hiding. He’s speaking to her, taunting her, trying to make her commit to revealing where she is. He’s standing here. She’s standing there. Now . . . how do you show the fear without her saying, “I am so afraid!”

Writers fight hard to demonstrate sincere, realistic, credible emotion in their writing. The type of emotion that makes one cry, scream, or cringe at the words on the page is not lightly written. Many writers miss the mark by not rewriting enough times, or miss the opportunity to really milk a scene by hurrying to reach their word count when slowing down, breathing deep and reaching way down inside themselves can make a good moment turn great in a story.

How do master writers master their displays of emotion into stories? Are they that in tune with their feelings? Are they that sensitive? Emotions initially emanate from an author’s heart, but the interpretation of that feeling into the best words isn’t as easy as it looks.  That’s why writers today often fall back onto resource guides for hints on how to write emotion more keenly, precisely, or memorably.

As an author and a freelance writer, I’ve learned to use several emotional guidebooks to generate better beats, thoughts, or behaviors for my characters, stories, and features. Yes, my regular thesaurus could fill the bill, but the following guides make the job a bit easier, especially when you aren’t sure which word to look up.

The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression – by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Written by two authors of mainly the young adult genre, The Emotional Thesaurus jumpstarts your efforts to nail the right emotion. Take the example above. The emotion is Fear. Flip to the page for Fear and you’ll find its definition, physical signals of fear, internal sensations of fear, mental reactions, cues of acute or long-term fear, and cues of suppressed fear. Using examples from The Emotional Thesaurus, under Fear, our protagonist can: have her hands turn clammy, gasp in pain, flinch at a noise, shake, get dizzy or blind rapidly. She senses things moving too quickly to process or has flawed reasoning. She could fight the fear with a smile, overreact with anger or reply in a joking manner. So many options for such an outstanding key moment!

Building Believable Characters – by Marc McCutcheon

Writer’s Digest Books released this guide over a dozen years ago, but it’s still a grand source of character revelation, used by thousands. It leads you how to develop your characters, to include a thorough questionnaire. However, the bulk of the book consists of a Character Thesaurus, with 35 pages assigned to Facial Expressions, Body and Vocal Language. Learn which words and mannerisms best depict a particular emotion. Let’s use Fear again, relating back to the example. Our protagonist can stare saucer-eyed, stare catatonically, turn ashen, twitch facial muscles, or sense a wave welling up from her belly. The wonderful part about this book is that you not only learn emotional triggers, but you also gain tips on describing dress, personality, face and body, dialect, homes and names to best represent your character.

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits – by Dr. Linda Edelstein

This guide tends to get into character descriptions, but its format lends itself to emotional study as well. Learn how characters can react and display their emotions when it comes to being criminal, being sexual, being an adult, being a child, facing hard decisions, entering love, reacting to sudden change, using verbal vs. nonverbal communication. See how your character would react to varied situations, or what would drive her to abnormal behavior.

Readers read stories for the emotional tug. The best plot and the most complex characters mean nothing without the reader feeling the words. A thesaurus is a must-have, of course, and serves your purpose most of the time, but the time will come when a synonym won’t do. You want phrasing, visuals, and reactions as well. That’s why you need an emotional reference guide at the ready. And, of course, be willing to mark them up and dog-ear the pages. These are guides that remain on your writing resource shelf for as long as you’re in this business to write a solid tale.


C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series (Lowcountry Bribe, 2012; Tidewater Murder, 2013; Palmetto Poison, 2014), published by Bell Bridge Books. She is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, selected by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 13 years. Her newsletters reach 40,000 readers each week. www.fundsforwriters.com / www.chopeclark.com

TWITTER – http://twitter.com/hopeclark
FACEBOOK – http://www.facebook.com/chopeclark
GOODREADS – http://www.goodreads.com/hopeclark
PINTEREST – http://www.pinterest.com/chopeclark

Cindy here again!

Great resources! Thanks so much for being here. Checked out your Twitter bio. My fiancé is a MENSA member too.

Happy writing!



Writing That Look of Love

Welcome to the blog today! We’ve got Laura Haley-McNeil talking to us about facial expressions and posture that reveal emotion in our writing.  She’s doing a draw for a lucky random commenter for a $10 egift card.

Here’s Laura!

As writers, we all know how important it is to capture the emotions of our characters. The question I always ask myself is: How does my character feel?

Writing on the computer is miraculous because when I have a question, I can easily look up the answer on the internet. So how did I find the answer to how my character(s) feel? YouTube.

There are a couple of television shows I like to watch. One is The Good Wife. Two characters from the show intrigue me: Cary and Kalinda. (Never mind that Kalinda is bi.)

I was searching YouTube for facial expressions and typed in Cary’s name. Bumcrackmosh182 and others have compiled excerpts of the scenes with Cary and Kalinda together with background music. Kalinda is cool toward Cary, but Cary is so over the top in love with her it drives me crazy. http://youtu.be/GSmogQQPPyw

Two other characters I like to view on YouTube are Mary and Matthew from Downton Abbey. Lolilie has compiled excerpts of their scenes. http://youtu.be/dGPAYL5MQT4

When I look at these videos, I’m analyzing everything I see: the eyes, the mouth, the tilt of the character’s chin, their posture. Are the characters standing close together? Is there distance emotionally and physically? Is there longing? Have the characters given up? Will they walk away from each other? Have they realized this love was never meant to be but they can still love from afar? As you can see, my questions never stop.

As viewers, we can interpret anything we want in what we view. As actors, it’s important to them that they portray the correct emotion and so they work hard to make sure that we the viewer feel what they project. As writers, we struggle with the precise word that will convey what we want the reader to feel.

If you’re looking for emotions besides love, YouTube has thousands of videos depicting a broad range of emotion from fear to hate to joy to depression.

Have you found others? I’d love to hear about them. I’ll have a drawing and send a $10 ebook gift card to one lucky commenter.

Excerpt from Prelude and Fugue

Prelude and Fugue cover          “Liam Wallace?” Panic burst through me as I forced confidence into my voice, lifted my chin, and looked at the towering figure filling the doorway. My clammy hands gripped a briefcase weighted with ancient piano books. It knocked against my knees as I stood on his terraced front porch in the fading sunlight of a cool, Denver afternoon.

Though his eyes never left mine, I knew he was making the observations everyone makes about me: small, timid, weak.

“Yes.” His lean physique bore an oxford shirt and soft wool trousers, but my gaze was immediately drawn to the mass of salt and pepper curls.

“I’m Olivia St. Claire. I had called about the piano lessons.”

“Of course.” He opened the door.

I stepped into the tiled foyer paneled in dark wood. Through the arched doorway, I caught a glimpse of cathedral windows overlooking a pristine lawn. Light drifting through leaded glass splashed across a Persian carpet.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His voice carried a sense of authority, yet was gentle. He extended his hand and I started when his cuff lifted to reveal a thin scar that crossed his palm.

Cool strength closed around my fingers and unintelligible words tumbled from my mouth that would have said I was glad to meet him.

“You brought your music, I see.” His hand released mine, which reluctantly floated to the briefcase.

Unwanted sensations rushed through me, but I reminded myself a male piano teacher would have little interest in women.


Laura Haley McNeilAbout Laura:  Laura Haley-McNeil has studied piano, violin, organ and ballet. She has served on the boards of two community orchestras. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband.




Follow Laura on Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurarmcneil
Find her on Goodreads:  Author Laura Haley-McNeil

Cindy here again!

I love this, Laura! It seems so simple but I never thought of doing that to see what emotions looked like so I can write them. I’ll be spending some time on YouTube this weekend because I suck at writing emotion. This should help.

Don’t forget to comment answering Laura’s question to be entered in the draw for a chance to win a $10 egift card.

Happy writing!


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