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Make Your Readers Feel

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Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:29 am
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Emerson says...



Make Your Readers Feel
By: Claudette

I was reading Against Nature by J.-K. Huysmans when I came across a paragraph that made me shudder.

‘It has been filled before. I’m afraid there’s nothing can be done this time.’ [This is the main character speaking]

The man [this is the dentist] promptly put a stop to this explanation by inserting an enormous forefinger into his mouth; then, muttering to himself behind his curly waxed moustaches, he picked up an instrument from a table.

At this point the drama really began. Clutching the arms of the chair, Des Esseintes [The MC] felt the cold touch of metal inside his cheek, then saw a whole galaxy of stars, and in unspeakable agony started stamping his feet and squealing like a stuck pig.

There was a loud crack as the molar broke on its way out. By now it seemed as if his head were being pulled off and his skull smashed in…


I hate the dentist. But the point is, can’t you feel exactly what is happening to Des Esseintes? While reading this, I though of what a great example this was for making your readers feel exactly what the character is feeling. I could feel everything; could you imagine getting a tooth pulled 150 years ago? No sedatives. Ouch. This is how you need to write descriptions in your writing. Make the reader feel everything.

Some authors (I can guarantee I am one of them) totally neglect this idea, but the best way to get someone into a story is to make them feel. Even in poetry! Oh, this is even bigger in poetry, though with poetry it is emotions, here it is some physical force. Stop neglecting feelings! Pull your reader in, and have them feel that tooth being yanked out by its roots!

Even his word choice is superb. Any twit could say, “Des Esseintes was in great pain.” Ew, boring sentence, and isn’t pain so general and vague? But not only is he loosing his tooth, he’s in agony, he sees stars from the pain, he’s ‘squealing like a stuck pig’!

So, I thought this would be a good reminder, and example, for everyone out there. Make your readers FEEL what is happening! And use good words, too!
“It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo




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Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:58 pm
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adamr says...



Absolutely-- if necessary then it's useful to actually pretend you're the MC and almost act out the scene in order to really get the scene onto the page. :D




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Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:20 pm
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Wiggy says...



Great advice, Clau! Thanks, and that paragraph made me shudder, too.
"I will have to tell you, you have bewitched me body and soul..." --Mr. Darcy, P & P, 2005 movie
"You pierce my soul." --Cpt. Frederick Wentworth

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Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:10 pm
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Emerson says...



good, I'm not the only one terrified of having teeth ripped out...
“It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo




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Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:51 am
Cade says...



Oh, yeah, it's huge in poetry! It has a lot to do with showing vs. telling.
Telling is like saying, "I am sad," which doesn't do much for the reader except make them go, "What a depressed poet, but I don't care!"
Instead of laying out something so broad and flat as sadness, it's better to describe things specifically, as in the sweet dentist quote. Instead of saying, "I am sad" describe the way you're pulling yourself away from your friends, how music doesn't sound the same anymore, how the night sky seems so heavy or how the sun seems so harsh.
Instead of saying, "I miss the place where I used to live," describe specific things about that place in a loving way. Talk about how you and the neighbor kid used to catch frogs in the creek, and, if you describe it well, a feeling of nostalgia will saturate the poem and leak into the reader's mind. The reader will know that the speaker misses the old house without the speaker ever saying it.
"My pet, I've been to the devil, and he's a very dull fellow. I won't go there again, even for you..."




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Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:48 pm
Myth says...



I've had to do this with someone afraid of heights and claustrophobic. I'll have to rrewite it, and thank you for including the passgae, Clau, now I know what it is like for my little sister.
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Fri Mar 02, 2007 5:56 pm
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Shafter says...



If you're writing about something you've never experienced, I've found it helpful to talk to someone who has. For instance, one of my main characters has asthma. I don't, but my brother does. Through some cajoling and bribing, I got him to explain in detail what an asthma attack is like.

Of course, the problem with fantasy is that you have to guess a lot. Unless anyone here has had an arrow shot into the right side of their chest...? ;)
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Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:27 pm
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Emerson says...



Shafter: Well, research is your best friend. For medical things I tend to use WebMD.com because they have a good list of symptoms and so forth so you can at least know what is going on with the body, and from there guess the feelings/emotions it would create.

Lucky for me, a lot of my characters tend to have a personality trait I have. Like my character Fleur, I'm turning her into a socially phobic person, which I have had experiences with, so hopefully my descriptions of it will turn out well.

Myth: Was it really late at night when you typed that response? lol.
“It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo




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Sat Mar 03, 2007 1:49 pm
Myth says...



Clau: I was tired, it was nearly 4pm GMT time XD
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Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:12 am
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Matthews says...



Thanks for posting this! Reading that tooth thing made me cringe! Ug! OUCH! I'll have to keep that in mind.
Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.