In his classic book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight Swain makes a pivotal statement when he says that “feeling is the place every story starts” (p.7). Swain goes on to say that the “search for feeling is what turns your reader to fiction” (ibid.). With these truths in mind, let’s take a brief look at how to elicit feeling through story.
Again, Swain offers valuable suggestions for eliciting feeling in your reader:
1) Begin with your own feelings. All of us have experienced the broad gamut of human emotion. As you begin your story, choose that emotion which will dominate your story.
2) Keep that feeling paramount throughout your story. If your protagonist struggles with anger toward the man who betrayed her, keep that feeling always in front of your reader as you move your protagonist through her character arc. As Swain notes, “most readers read to feel, not analyze” (p. 17).
3) Recognize that feeling is what will move your story forward. Although technique is important, feeling will ultimately drive your story. Again, Swain makes a keen observation: “Feeling tells you what you want to say. Technique gives you tools with which to say it” (p. 18).
What feeling or feelings are you trying to convey in your current WIP? What techniques are you using to show those feelings in your characters?
I welcome your comments.
Swain, Dwight V. Techniques of the Selling Writer, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965. Print.