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Make me laugh…or cry

Posted by on 2010/06/14

Writing comes in stages, just like the flowering of this...whatever it was growing in our yard in Michigan!

My friend and fellow critique partner, Susan, is writing a book about mystical experiences that people have near death. Her stories often make me cry as if I was the best friend or the mother or sister of the deceased. I know she covets my lyrical and descriptive style, but I covet her ability to bring me tears. Her passion, and compassion, often shines through in her writing and I find myself wondering how I can get my reader to feel that same depth of emotion when I’m writing about a fictional character.

On the flip side, two of my other critique partners, Dee and Laura, have this great sense of humor. Frequently I’m in stitches when I read their stories. Dee has a great way of putting words together. It might be two words that, read separately, aren’t that funny, but together they are hilarious. I wish I could see the world through her eyes more often. Laura, on the other hand, has a great sarcastic bite that really rings true in her teenage characters. I laugh when I read her writing because her voice is dead on.

Laughing, and the opposite end of the emotion pole, crying, are two very hard things to develop in your writing. I’ve taken classes at workshops and conferences on learning to bring some more humor into your writing. I don’t know that it’s helped. I think being funny and writing humorously comes with personality and experience. It’s not out of reach though if you don’t have that natural born funny bone.

I don’t try to make you laugh when I write. I don’t try to write funny. Most of the humor in my writing comes out of situations that my characters have to face, or something that is misunderstood by another character. When I write, I don’t try to make you cry either. I want that to come naturally, because you empathize with my character and can “feel” for her, put your self in her shoes. So funny, and sad, can come naturally through good storytelling and quirky characters. At least, that’s what I’ve convinced myself of = ).

As a writer, do you try to make people laugh or cry or do you let those situations play out naturally? What’s the best advice you’ve received about bringing humor/emotion to your manuscript? What’s your secret to making readers cry?

And speaking of secrets….on Wednesday some fellow blogging friends and I are beginning a “How I Write” series. Stay tuned!

2 Responses to Make me laugh…or cry

  1. Laura Pauling

    True emotion like that is hard to make your reader feel. I think you’re right in that if we try to force, it will feel, well, forced. I guess the best advice I’ve heard is to know the character deep down and write from the heart. – And I’m still figuring that out. Thanks for linking to my blog!

  2. Andrea

    I definitely let the emotions try to flow naturally from my writing, because I want to the reader to feel what my character is feeling. Probably the best advice I could give is not to tell your reader what your character is supposed to be feeling, let them discover it through the story, and the character’s actions.

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