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One of the first signs of a good book, to me, is when I begin to react to the story. Whether that firstreaction is a snicker, a gasp, or even a grimace, when I start to react to the words on the page, I know chances are good that I’m going to enjoy the book.
It’s these kind of reactions that I look for when reading my drafts aloud to my unsuspecting test subject (AKA: my lucky first reader). If my first reader laughs or gasps in the right places, I know the WIP is resonating emotionally, which is exactly what I want.
Before beta readers and critique partners, however, it can be difficult to determine whether or not your novel hits the right emotional chords. Truly, the only way to be sure that you’ve succeeded is with outside feedback, but there is a way to know whether or not you’re on the right track.
The answer is deceptively simple: it’s you.
A quick aside: I’m not really an emotional person. I’ve only ever shed tears over one movie in my lifetime (and I watch a lot of movies), and as far as I can remember, I’m pretty sure I’ve never cried while reading a book. I’ve come close, and I’ve definitely felt profound sadness over unfortunate events and losses in fictional stories, but I’ve yet to ugly cry over a book.
I tell you this, because despite my steely emotions, I pay close attention to how I’m feeling while I’m writing. As the creator of the characters and the world in your novel, it’s safe to say that you care the most for your story and its inhabitants, so if your writing isn’t affecting you emotionally as you write, chances are it’s not going to affect your readers, either.
As the lovely Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
You are the first indicator of emotional resonance (or lack thereof) in your novel. If you find yourself tearing up over a particularly heavy passage, or snickering over some great dialogue, chances are you’re on the right track to a great story.
Writers: what signs do you look for to check for emotional resonance in your novels? Readers: what books have you read that left particularly powerful emotional echoes?
The key to determining whether or not your story hits the right emotional chords? It’s you. (Click to tweet)
Does your WIP resonate emotionally? Here’s one way to see if you’re on the right track. (Click to tweet)