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Guest Post—Put Some Heart in Your Emotion

Happy NaNoWriMo Everyone!

To celebrate the first day of National Novel Writing Month I'm pleased to host fellow author Dianna Winget (who I just happened to find during the Writers Helping Writers Amazing Race) who will share her insight on injecting emotion into your writing.  Meanwhile, I am welcoming a group of authors from all over the globe to a writing retreat in Phuket. Seriously, they've come from Canada, the US, Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand! Over the next 6 days we'll be writing, critiquing, learning and inspiring each other. I will be joined by author and publisher Jo Parfitt who will conduct workshops on adding SPICE to your writing and Breaking the Block. I'll update you all next week and share our stories. For now, Dianna, take it away! 

Author Dianna Winget
            Our lives are pretty much ruled by emotions—and that includes all you manly guys out there, even though you refuse to discuss it. Just think how many feelings we experience on any given day. The gamut can run from delight to disgust, contentment to irritation, fear to frustration. So if these feelings are so common to all of us, why can they be such a challenge to accurately portray? Probably because it’s one thing to experience an emotion, quite another to make our readers feel it. Too often we fall back on the rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms type of description that’s been used a million times and has lost its impact. 

Here are a few tips that can help liven up your writing.

  1. Don’t expect your reader to feel what your character is feeling just because you want them to. Only when emotion is provoked through the circumstances of the story will your reader feel what you want.
  2. Consider your character’s age, gender, background and place in history. Ask yourself how this particular character might feel about or react to a situation.
  3. What is the strongest emotion you want your reader to feel? Search out and delete that word everywhere it occurs in your manuscript. How can you portray that emotion through action alone?
  4. Choose an emotion. Jot down the first five physical reactions that spring to mind. These will likely be clichés you want to avoid. Expand upon these until your description feels fresh and original.
  5. Get yourself a copy of Angela Ackerman’s Emotion Thesaurus. This is a fun and immensely helpful tool for accurately portraying character emotion.

            Always remember that readers have high expectations. They don’t want to be told how a character feels, they want to experience the emotion for themselves. So roll up your writer sleeves and make yourself sweat a little. Your effort will result in a much stronger manuscript and a loyal base of readers.

Author Bio

Dianna begin writing at nine years old, when she would stuff notebooks under her bed to prevent prying eyes from seeing her wonderful masterpieces. It wasn't until graduating from high school that she finally admitted her love for writing. After graduating from the Institute of Children’s Literature, Dianna began selling short stories and articles to magazines such as Clubhouse, U*S* Kids, Child Life, and Good Reading for Everyone. 

It wasn't until 2012, that she realized her dream of writing middle grade novels with the publication of A Smidgen of Sky.(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Watch for her next middle grade, True As Steel. (Scholastic Press, Fall of 2014) Dianna is repped by Lara Perkins at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. To learn more, visit her website at Or connect with her on Twitter @DiannaMWinget.


Angela Ackerman said…
I am thrilled to see you two made a match during the WHW Amazing race! There is loads of good advice of the biggest neon signs of telling is naming an emotion, and thinking about who the character is, what their life experience might be and how that affects them really will play into emotional expression and range. And wow, thanks for the shout out too--very kind of you!

Great stuff! Will share this :) It's nice to meet authors of Middle Grade, because that's where my writing heart is too! :)

Dianna Winget said…
Thanks so much for hosting me, Anne! And Angela, I don't know what I'd do without my Emotion Thesaurus :)
Dianna, Great to have you!

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