All posts by Erin Unger

The Emotional Side of Writing

There’s nothing like reading a book and laughing with the characters, crying when they have a tragedy, getting chills when suspense rocks them. It’s what makes us read late into the night when we should be sleeping. Gripping stories are why we can’t put a book down to start dinner when we should.

What sets those kind of books apart from the rest? What makes us forget our world for just a bit as we venture into another?

The answer is emotion. We need to feel like we can relate to the protagonist in the story on a personal level. Without it, we can’t connect. A storyline falls flat.

Here’s some tips to help inject more emotion into your writing:

  1. Show the character’s feelings.
    1. They put their hands on their hips.
    2. She slammed her fist on the table.
    3. He rubbed his neck and looked away.
  2. Dig deeper into why your character responds the way they do.
  3. Make sure your protagonist is flawed.
  4. Keep some of their past hidden until necessary. It’ll keep the reader guessing as to why they act, react, or overreact.
  5. Show that your character doesn’t have all the answers through their frustrations, wants, and needs.
  6. Keep their personality consistent. Avoid sudden shifts or you’ll lose the reader.
  7. Allow them to have some type of emotional victory even if the story doesn’t have a happy ending.

A great story has many elements, but one of the most important ones is using emotion to hurtle your story above the rest. Make us want to turn the pages. Give us something to connect with. Show us how your characters feel. If you use emotion to help tell your story, your writing won’t be just words, it’ll be a victory of connecting with your readers.

Books Are Like Gum

I’m a gum chewer. I can exhaust a piece of the best gum in no time flat. That also makes me a connoisseur of sorts. I could tell you which gum has the best flavor, which one lasts the longest, which one is most likely to trigger those happy childhood memories for most of us even if it only has five minutes of enjoyment in it.

 A book can be like gum. There are many types:

  • The ones that have the perfect flavor and texture all the way to the end.
  • Sometimes we pick up one with a great cover and we can’t wait to taste the delights inside to find a surprise: we think it’s one genre and it turns out to be different.
  • Sometimes we fall back on our old favorites for the sake of familiarity.
  • Or what about the one that someone recommends to you and it has just the right taste for that day.
  • There are ones like the best bubble makers. They build and build with excitement, and you can’t wait to see how they’ll turn out.
  • And there are the ones that you know you’re going to love from beginning to end just because you’ve enjoyed their brand in the past.

There are so many flavors, colors, and consistencies in this giant world of writing. Take a little time to enjoy something out of your comfort zone, something new. You may find it was exactly what you needed today.

Prayer…He’s Waiting

There are days when you’re down in the dumps, hanging on with your fingernails ready to split from the effort of holding on. You just want to let go. You just want to give up. You want to say you did everything you could.

But have you?

One of the most significant shortcomings we Christians fall prey to is lack of prayer. We remember God when things are crashing around us, but do we remember Him when things are going according to our plans? What about when we’ve had a major victory? Where is our thanksgiving prayer then?

It’s an easy slide from depending on God in a time of need to forgetting to pray in our daily activity.

As a writer, the need is so very great for us to stay hooked up to God. Our mission to write comes from above. God has a specific message he intends us to share, and a target audience He wants to influence through us, even if it’s only one person. How can we do that if we aren’t talking to Him and listening for His sweet voice?

Busyness is one of my best excuses for not praying enough. I hit the ground running as soon as I’m out of bed. I whiz a quick noncommittal prayer upwards as I careen through my morning regime, and then I’m off to my life. I forget that it’s not my life. It’s His. And, I need Him all the time. Not at my convenience: at His.

Sometimes I sit down to write and before I know it two hours have passed. I didn’t invite God into the room to show me what I was to work on for the day. So how can I trust my work is what He wants me to do? I may have wasted all the time I was trying to save.

If you’re rushing around today, and so many writers are on their way to the ACFW conference as we speak, stop and take time to come before the Savior. Talk to Him. Pray before you get too busy to remember. He’s waiting…