Emotion. It’s what I hope to evoke from someone who picks up my books and reads them. (It’s what I hope will happen when I read a book, too.) I want the person to see through the eyes of my characters, to experience what they’re experiencing, to root for them when they’re struggling and cheer when they overcome an obstacle. For me, in order for that to happen, I have to be emotionally involved in what I’m writing, I have to be seeing, hearing, experiencing it in my mind’s eye. Whatever is happening has to be very visceral for me or the scene is boring and stilted, and it’s like pulling out splinters in your sole just to get the words on the “page”. Perhaps if I wrote more regularly, this would be different. Right now, I write when the muse strikes…or I have the time. Lately, that hasn’t been happening at all. L
Sometimes, even when I’m emotionally involved in a scene, I struggle to find the words to describe the scene in my head. This scene from my latest release The Whispering House flowed from my fingertips.
Eleanor grabbed her coat, pulled on her knit cap and gloves, and stepped out into the mist, determined to re-discover the peace of the first week. As the damp seeped into her skin, she resolved that the quiet of the countryside would, too.
She opened the door and looked straight out the back. From her vantage point, she could clearly see the elusive path. If she walked directly across the creek, the path lay just to the right of the back gate.
Gravel crunched beneath her feet, but she didn’t allow the sound to distract her as it normally would. Her gaze remained fixed on the path. She marveled at how she’d missed it the first seven days. Today, she would explore it. With any luck, it would take her mind off of yesterday’s fright. The gate squeaked, the noise echoing rudely. Eleanor winced, but her attention never wavered from the break in the trees.
Just across the creek, the path beckoned. She looked down and nimbly hopped from one rock to the next until she reached the bank. Once safely on the other side, she looked up and gasped.
A tall, slender man holding a cowboy hat in one hand and leading a horse with the other stared back at her. He stood on the path. Not a sound had announced his arrival. Shivers ran down her spine. Goose bumps trailed in their wake. Where had he come from? Beyond him, the path stretched into the oak forest.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I saw you stepping out for a walk and I thought I would introduce myself. If now is a bad time…”
“No,” Eleanor shook her head, “it’s all right.” But it wasn’t all right. His sudden appearance rattled her. However, she’d never let him know it. “I was just going to explore that path you’re standing on.”
She took in his appearance, detailing everything in case she needed to report him to the police. Even the country had weirdoes inhabiting it. Wavy brown hair framed a rugged face. His hair looked so soft and silky that Eleanor’s original intention became lost in a sudden tingle of awareness. She itched to sink her hands into it even as her survival instinct called her a fool. A prickle of desire spread through her. Her gaze slipped past his tawny one, over his high cheekbones, his smiling lips, and square jaw. Self-conscious, she couldn’t meet his eyes and looked at the ground instead.
The silence stretched between them. She shifted, unsure what to say. She looked back up at his face. He watched her intently. The heat of embarrassment crept up her neck and filled her cheeks. She only hoped he couldn’t read her jumpiness or recognize the rush of desire that surged through her when their gazes met.
The man’s smile seemed innocuous. “I’ve been meaning to stop by, but we’ve been busy at the ranch. Then I saw you walking through the woods the other day, and I thought I might catch you out here again sometime.” He studied Eleanor’s face. “I thought that it was very un-neighborly of me not to come over to say ‘hello’.”
A sliver of unease wormed its way into Eleanor’s thoughts. “You saw me in the woods?” Her voice rose, and she took a breath before continuing. “But the closest house is five miles away.”
I know I’m in trouble if I start editing a book I’m reading. One of the hazards of being a publisher and editor (and author) is not being able to shut off the editor. On the flip side, if I only notice one or two errors, the book is stellar.
Many years ago, I was reading a YA horror. Mind you, I’m not a horror fan. However, I can enjoy any story…if it’s well-written. Within the first few pages, I wanted all of the characters, except for the bad guy, to die. Perhaps it was too reminiscent of the horror movies of my youth (Think Friday the 13th.) that were populated with extremely stupid people. Perhaps it was the multiple points of view. Perhaps it was any a number of things that caused my reaction. Or maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t connect to the characters emotionally. Because, when we are emotionally involved in what we are reading and the characters, we’re much more forgiving when they err.
Bad sign. Very bad sign. (grin) As you can see, I was more emotionally involved in their deaths than their survival. (grin)
So, yes, for me, if I’m reading or writing fiction, I need an emotional connection. It has to happen instantly, too. If I don’t care about the characters I’m writing or reading, I’m gone. (It’s that nanosecond attention span. grin)
What about you? Do you need to be emotionally involved to read or write a book?
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