John B. Olson, a writer I admire and study, put a fun thing on sale:
an audio lecture called “Writing in the Shadows.” Randy Ingermanson
praised it on his blog and e-zine and even made a special sale out of
it last week. When I purchased Olson’s book, Powers, and I got the
audio lecture for free! And a comic book! And a coupon for more sales! It couldn’t get any better, so I dove in.
I listened to the lecture the moment it finished downloading, all in
one shot, even chasing the kids out of the room when they complained
about wanting lunch. And it was worth it. Though compelled to share
everything I learned, I can’t do that to Mr. Olson. You’ll have to buy
the lecture if you want to absorb all his wisdom. But I will share the
concept I found the most helpful in my own writing.
Every scene should give the reader an emotional response. The words I chose, the mood I create, the character’s emotional reactions, all
should enhance the central tension, the emotional response I want the
reader to have.
Olson used an example from his book Shade. He wanted the reader to
feel fear for the protagonist, Hailey. She believed she was being
followed, and made her away through a building to a place of safety.
Olson used phrases like “aftertaste of decay and wet rat” and
“fighting the urge to break into a run.” He used verbs like “lunged”
and “escaped.” He used visuals like “the door closed behind her with a
sigh” and “the floor was quiet as a tomb.” These word choices all
worked along with the action of the scene to set the mood of fear for
I chose a scene from my current WIP and identified what I wanted the
reader to feel as he read. Then I went through and re-worked the
scene, adding phrases, changing verbs, intensifying the character’s
emotional responses, all with the goal of stimulating the reader’s
emotions in the direction I wanted them to go. What a power rush! It
was fun, too. I can’t wait to move on to the next scene and manipulate
the reader’s emotional responses some more.
For what it’s worth,