There are some scenes in books that are meant to hit hard. Authors make readers cry because they are evil and cruel. Also, it is a sign that their characters seem real and that their book is well-written. However, it is not easy to write something that will emotionally impact the reader. No matter how upset you make the main character, it is not a guarantee that the audience will feel the same way. In fact, going over board with describing how ecstatic or heart broken the protagonist is can cause eye rolls rather than empathy.
In order to make the readers feel what you want them to feel, have moments of joy when the story takes a sad turn and vice versa. The switch between positive and negative jolts the reader. It is something new. It stands out. I have two analogies to explain how this helps with emotional impact:
- The roller coaster
When you are on a roller coaster, you do not want to be bored. It is a roller coaster, not a train track. It is not going to be straight and even. There are ups and downs, twists and turns.
Likewise, people do not want to be bored while reading. Have things been going well recently? Have a drop. Have slow climbs upward, building anticipation. Add a few loops of mixed emotion if you want. Your writing is a roller coaster.
2. Light switch
Let’s be honest, we all went through a phase as kids where we would flip the lights on and off. Now, imagine it is the morning and someone wakes you up by turning on the lights. You squint, block the light, moan “Turn it off!”. On the other hand, think of turning off the lights. Unable to see in the dark, you stumble blindly.
In this analogy, negative parts of the story are like when the lights are turned off and positive parts are when the lights are on. If you are writing a dark story, you cannot expect sad moments to hit as hard. When the lights are off, our eyes adjust after a while. It is the same for readers. They get used to the darkness in the book. However, if you suddenly turn the lights on, having a time of happiness, they are blinded by the sudden light. They will share the protagonist’s joy with greater ease. Then, when the lights are off once again, they are no longer used to the dark. Thus, the dark moments carry more emotional impact. In writing, be an annoying toddler who flips the light switch. Your readers will thank you for it through tears.