Thursday, June 20, 2013

Please welcome our guest Margaret Brownley

Margaret Brownley

Let’s Get Emotional

Margaret Brownley
Think back to your earliest childhood memory. You were probably three, four or perhaps even five at the time.  Now think about how you felt. You might have been scared or hurt. Perhaps you felt giddy with joy or maybe even lonely and confused.  Whatever the emotion, it was strong enough to make a deep and lasting impression or the memory wouldn’t have stayed with you all these years.

The same type of emotional response that fuels our memory banks is also what makes characters memorable. Think back to all your favorite movie and book scenes.  Characters that make us laugh, cry or tremble with fear stay with us long after we turn the last page or walk out of a theater. I was only ten when I read Little Women but I still remember feeling sad when Beth died.   

Readers choose genres for emotional reasons.  They read romances to experience the joy of falling in love. They expect thrillers to excite; horror to shock; mysteries to surprise. If a book disappoints, it’s generally because it fails to meet a reader’s emotional expectations.  Readers don’t want to read a story, they want to feel it.

Here are some tips for giving your story an emotional lift.

Make Us Care

There are many ways to reach a reader’s emotional core, but first of all you must make readers care about the character. Melvin in As Good as it Gets was one of the most flawed and unlikeable characters you’d ever hope to meet. Melvin’s gruff exterior wouldn’t have worked without the lonely and vulnerable man inside who made us care.  

Make Us Bond

Another way to reach readers emotionally is to make them bond with the character through recognition and familiarity.  I’ve never lived in the ocean depths, but I’ve known loss and I know how it feels to be a concerned parent. That’s what made me identify with and care about an overprotective clownfish named Marlin in Finding Nemo.  Write about werewolves if you want, set your story on Planet X, but it’s the humanity of your characters that will keep readers turning those pages.

Make Us Feel

Readers are also affected emotionally through theme. Theme is the emotional base beneath the story. We are told to write what we know.  Better advice would be to write what we’re passionate about. What’s important to you?  What are your passions? Is it love, freedom, salvation or injustice?  The passion of your theme will strike a chord in readers.

Be Specific 

Don’t just state an emotion, show it.  I don’t want to know that Paul is angry.  I want to see him tighten his lips and pull down his eyebrows. The seven basic emotions are anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.  These basic emotions have been proven to produce certain facial expressions.  Learn them and use them.

Show Motivation

A four-year-old I know was on a quest to find a spider.  When asked why, he replied “I want it to bite my grandmother.”  He then went on to explain that Spider Man got his super human powers from a spider bite. Since his grandmother was having trouble with her eyes, he figured that a spider bite would help her see again.  The driving force behind that little boy’s actions was his love and concern for his grandmother and his desire to help her.  His motivation was simple, yet compelling, and I admit it made me teary eyed.  That’s the kind of response we want from readers.

Write the Truth

Emotions spring from truth; Loss is sad, war is tough, love is grand. Write about truth and your readers can’t help but respond with emotion.

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for Waiting for Morning
If Molly Hatfield’s purple attire doesn’t blind you, her dazzling smile will. She doesn’t just sing to the cattle, she puts on a whole show. If only she wasn’t so stubborn about her brother’s care. Or so distrustful of a certain handsome doctor...
A Bride for All Seasons is in bookstores now!
Novella Collection with Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton and Mary Connealy.
A Bride for All Seasons blurb
It All Started with an Ad in a Mail Order Bride Catalogue…
Melvin Hitchcock of the Hitching Post Mail Order Bride Catalogue isn’t dishonest—not exactly. If he tweaks his clients’ applications a bit, it’s because he’s looking out for their best interests.
This charming bouquet of novellas introduces four Hitching Post prospects in the year 1870, each one eager for second chances . . . and hungry for happiness. Year in, year out, they’ll learn that love often comes in unexpected packages.
After Tom's brother is murdered, Mary-Jo shows up claiming she's his brother's fiance. Could Matt be desperate enough to accept Bible-thumping Ellie? Luvena is a singing sensation, and Clay owns an abandoned theater---a perfect match? And when Megan responds to David's ad, she doesn't realize he's a dying man!
About Margaret:

Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except she happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."

Margaret doubted this was true, but she wasn’t about to take chances. She’s now a New York Times bestselling author with more than 30 novels to her credit. Her latest story can be found in A Bride for All Seasons: a mail order bride collection written with Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher and Debra Clopton.  Gunpowder Tea will be the next book in her Brides of Last Chance Ranch series and is scheduled for October. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English.  Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.


  1. The coffee pot is ready!!! Come and get it.

    Thanks for the great tips, Margaret. You make it sound so easy.

  2. Hi Margaret:

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I believe that ‘caring’ about what happens to a character is the best ‘page turner’. It trumps rising conflict. Eventually ever exciting rising conflict means little if we don’t really care that much about what happens to the characters.

    I would add one more category: Delight the Reader. This can be done with witty comments, thoughtful insights, sparkling description, anticipated events that happen sooner than readers expected and trips to interesting locations, exclusive resorts and unique events.

    In advertising copywriting we always try to delight the reader because a delighted reader will keep reading and reading until the end.


    Please put me down for a chance to win “Waiting for Morning”. Kindle if possible.

  3. Welcome to Seekerville Margaret.

    Thanks for sharing these great tips.

    I definitely want my reader to care.

  4. Welcome Margaret

    I'm going to print your post for reference. This is the most frustrating part of my writing. I know how the character feels but can't seem to put it into words. Besides the facial descriptions, the internal words to define the character's thinking are important and I tend to gloss over them. I need a whole course on this subject.

    Please put me in the drawing. Your books sounds interesting.

  5. Wonderful post this morning Margaret and I whole hearted agree.

    We must make our readers empathize with our characters. Feel what they feel, see what they see.

    I think the key to that is to show motivation. It was cute for the little boy to hunt a spider. It became heart wrenching when we learned the reason he needed the spider.

    Is there anything more precious than the pure love of a child?

    Enter me for the drawing. :)

  6. Thank you for the wonderful insight, Margaret!

  7. Hi Margaret,
    I don't know how many times I've abandoned books because of this very thing-the author wrote as an observer, (or a journalist recording an event) and I couldn't connect with the characters. There simply wasn't enough emotion. Thanks for addressing the topic.
    I love your heroine's purple dress, btw. Great cover!

  8. Thank you Margaret. This is something I really struggle with -- I am a typical stone-faced New Englander. (DID YOU KNOW that New Englanders are rarely choses to be game show contestants? The producers want someone who can jump up and down.) I'm also a journalist by profession, and we are trained to keep emotion out. Please enter me in the drawing -- emotionally yours, Kathy Bailey

  9. Writing emotion is my very favorite part - also one of the hardest parts. I learned a long time ago the difference between writing fiction and straight journalism. Make the reader cry or laugh out loud! Super suggestions Margaret. I'll be saving this Seeker post.

  10. Hello Margaret,

    Thank you for this enlightening post. I find showing emotion if difficult when I write from my hero's point of view, so I need all of the help I can get! I would like to be in the drawing too.


  11. Great post, Margaret, and one I will be re-reading in my Keeper Files.

    Please put me in the drawing for your book, and Congratulations on your writing career!

    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  12. Margaret what you said about 'Write the truth'....this is such a great reminder to us to MAKE OUR WORDS SAY EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT THEM TO SAY!
    We are in charge and words can do and be and say whatever we wish exactly how we wish.
    So work on them until they are doing exactly what we want.

  13. Good morning Margaret.

    This is so true. I have read books that I just couldn't force myself to read. I kept wondering what was wrong when the plot was decent and there was plenty of action. I finally realized I didn't care about the characters. No matter how good the story, if I don't care about the people I put the book down and go do laundry.

  14. Hi all, thank you all for your comments. This looks easy on paper but we all know that it's not. Putting the right words on paper can be a struggle at times (most times!).

  15. Connie, I've put books down on occasion, but never to do the laundry!

  16. Margaret, I really liked your post. I find on my first draft if I can't describe the emotion readily, I name it and come back on my second pass to better describe it.

    I love what you said about writing your passion, not just what you know. What helpful advice. I'm coming back to this post for a re-read.

    Your books look good!

  17. Interesting article, thank you Margaret. I love your books.


  18. Margaret, it's so nice to have you as our guest today! Mary has been telling us so much about your novella collection, and I'm looking forward to reading it!

    Emotion. That really is what a good story is all about. Whenever I think about a particular story that didn't grab me emotionally, the first thing that comes to mind is the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. I felt ZERO emotional connection with Sherlock, so I just didn't care what happened to him.

  19. Hi Margaret,

    It sounds so simple when you break it down like that, and yet, it's the hardest thing to do. Especially not naming the emotion, but showing it! Like you said, facial expressions, body language, etc.

    I just have to give a plug for the book I finished yesterday: "Undeniably Yours" by Becky Wade. One of the hands-down best romances I've read to date! Becky's debut novel "My Stubborn Heart" was fantastic too, but this tops it. Her hero, Bo, is imho one of the best heroes I've ever read. I read the ending so fast that I'm going back to re-read it today.

    My recommendation for a great summer read! Lots of emotion too! (See how I made the connection there!)

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  20. I agree. Love a book that makes me feel the same emotions the character is feeling.


  21. Welcome to Seekerville, Margaret! Thanks for the excellent suggestions for making readers care about our characters. I need to brush up on the facial expressions that reveal a character's emotions.

    Love the reason you started writing fiction! Bless your pastor for giving you that push.

    I brought my homemade cream puffs filled with custard and drizzled with chocolate. Yummy!


  22. Vince, I agree! No matter how beautifully written or well plotted a book is, I can't push to the end if I don't care about the characters.



  23. You should all ask Vince to write a post on Delighting the Reader.

    Speaking of delight, I want some of those homemade cream puffs!

  24. Books that make me feel emotion are the ones that make it to my keeper shelf.

    Dee Henderson is one of those authors that never fails to grab my heart and make me believe her characters are alive somewhere out there and some day I'll meet them in person.

    In fact, I've got a pile of new books I want to read and stories I want to write, but I was itching to read through Dee's stories again. So... I picked up a couple of her books on audio to listen to as I drive to work. Great way to visit with an old friend and still leave me time to write when I'm home.

    Now if only I can make my readers care as much for my characters...

    1. Clari,
      I loved your debut LIH and cared very much about your characters! It's on my keeper shelf. :)


    I have read many a book where I finished and being a writer, analyzed and came to the realization there wasn't much plot. BUT DID I CARE? Not really, because I loved the characters. They did what I need a novel to do. They took me away. I cared. I was invested.

  26. Mary:

    Your comment on words brought one of my favorite quotes to mind:

    'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

    'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

    'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

    Through the Looking Glass, by LewisCarroll

  27. Hi Myra:

    You wrote:

    “Whenever I think about a particular story that didn't grab me emotionally, the first thing that comes to mind is the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. I felt ZERO emotional connection with Sherlock, so I just didn't care what happened to him.”


    My wife and I love Sherlock Holmes. We had an more radical reaction to that movie. We did care what happened to Sherlock…we wanted that movie to be the story in which Sherlock Holmes was killed!

    It was emotional all right. We hated it!


    P.S. It’s so nice to agree with you! ☺

  28. Thanks for your thoughts! I totally agree with you. I'd love to win your new book!


  29. Hi Margaret:

    I have a whole book on “Delighting the Reader”. It’s written and I’m just collecting examples from books for chapter nine in which I list the most common ‘delights’. There are about 40 but it keeps growning.

    I’m trying to get as many different authors as I can because that will probably make them friendly towards the book. : )

    I’ll try to find an example in “Waiting for the Morning”. I just found one in “Waiting for Summer’s Return” which I am now reading.

    Now if there were just more Seekers -- that would be very helpful. : O)


    P.S. Ruth has the best “Dear Reader” example and Missy the best “Acknowledgement” example. All the Seekers are best at something.

  30. LOL, Vince! So nice to know we agree about Sherlock! I was a little more interested in Jude Law's Watson, but not enough to enjoy the movie.

    However, I'm crazy about the PBS Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock and can't wait for the next season!

  31. I don't know if anyone else has heard of Cappers Weekly, but I remember when I was a very young wife with my first baby, the first of my five sisters to have a baby, trying to write some tiny essay for Cappers and capture the emotion of being the one of five to have a child.
    My sisters were all very smart, very independent, very successful women (well, one was still real young)
    And I wanted to write an essay that captured how great they were in their careers and education...and yet how fascinated by my baby they were.
    I didn't want it to be something that could anyway seem hurtful to them, nor did I want some 'women's lib' thing to come around out of it that could possibly hurt my husband...lest he think I envied my sisters worldly success.
    I was really struck by how tricky that all was, to capture ALL of that in the few words I had.
    Well, I never got published by Cappers but I loved forcing those words to take just the exact right tone, and revising and editing them until they OBEYED ME

  32. Such simple concepts, complex in the execution. A good list to have hanging about.

    Ruthy pops to my mind first for that emotional connection. I need a box of kleenex at my side when reading her books because she hits my heart chords so well. (and yes, the tears are good tears...)
    Mary comes to mind for the delight aspect with her humor.

    Those are the first two Seekers that pop to mind from reading the post and comments. I'm hoping none of the other Seekers feel neglected, because, as Vince said, y'all know how to connect with the readers VERY well. Have yet to "meet" a Seekerville book character that I didn't care about.

  33. VINCE-------ME and Alive in Wonderland, huh?

    Well, that's not bad company. :)

  34. Oh, I remember Capper's Weekly! An elderly lady who lived with my mom and me when I was a teenager used to read it all the time. A fun little newspaper. I think I actually tried submitting a piece to them once, myself.

  35. Hi Margaret, indeed we do pick up books to read to FEEL the story. I know I do. I have many adventures through reading.
    enjoyed your post, I have read this book and enjoyed the story very much.
    thanks for sharing today.
    Paula O

  36. I agree with you about needing to care about the characters. Otherwise, what is the point? What keeps us reading if we don't care for them in some way?

    Please enter me in the drawing for Waiting for Morning.
    Brittany McEuen

  37. Margaret, welcome, and thank you for the great advice!

    Congrats on the new release! I bet y'all had fun writing the stories. :)

  38. Tina, I've read a lot of contest entries like that. "Perfectly" written, yet I didn't feel a thing and wasn't invested at all.

  39. Great stuff, Margaret. But, uh, maybe my 3 1/2 yo nephew doesn't need to see Spiderman. Just sayin' lol

  40. Thanks for a wonderful post! It's one I especially needed— right here and now. I love it when I feel what the characters are feeling.

    And it is easier said than done. :-(



    If you read this, you are wanted on the radio for your interview right now. They are waiting for you. It’s from 3:00 Central to I don’t know when. Mary is on the radio.



    Radio Show on now

  43. Please throw my name in the cat dish for the book drawing. I like the story about Spider-Man.

  44. We survived! Margaret wasn't that fun?
    It'll be available as a podcast soon (whatever that is) when I know I'll post it in the weekend edition.

    We had fun. I can't imagine doing the whole show myself though. That's a LOT of talking!!!

  45. Hi, Margaret! I love what you said about writing the truth and building emotion from there. Great post!

  46. Hi Mary, we did survive the radio interview even with all the tech problems. For those of you who didn't hear the show, Mary shared that she had 22 books in her computer before she sold her first. Now that's a true and dedicated writer!

  47. Aww...Thank you, Karen!
    I love hearing that!

  48. Margaret, thank you for this.
    It reaffirms to me that the WIP right now does not survive without a prologue. It just doesn't.
    When Chapter one opens, the hero is gross and a little creepy. Without doing all those things you said in the prologue which takes place four years before, that story doesn't stand a chance in the commercial market.

    So if I could throw in for any beginning writers out there, like I was not so many years ago, THIS is what they mean when they say know the rules so you can know why you're breaking them. =D

    Vince, I also needed to read your insight. Be reminded rather. Sometimes there isn't always escalating external conflict. Sometimes it's just how much the readers love the characters and how badly they want them to not mess up the relationship building between them. At least I hope so. Now... back to the WIP. I need to find a wooden pencil to hold between my teeth. I always seem to be able to focus better like that.

  49. One of my biggest challenges in emotions is that I write stories set in Japan and the Japanese tend to hide their emotions. I've spent a lot of time trying to better understand a way to present what is going on.

  50. Walt, that's a challenge and I know what you mean. I have an Asian daughter in law whom I adore, but I sometimes intimidate her when I jump and down with excitement or throw my arms around her.

  51. Hi Margaret!

    Yes, characters make books memorable! If I don't like the characters, I don't care how great the plot or adventure is written. I want emotional investment in the characters!!

    I can't wait to read A Bride for all Seasons. All the contributing authors know how to tug on emotional strings!

  52. Shucks, you make it sound so simple and easy! You've made me want to read your books, even more so just to really pay attention to what you shared. Thanks for the great advice and sharing your thoughts today!

    kam110476 (at) gmail (dot) com

  53. >>Write about truth and your readers can’t help but respond with emotion<<

    Good gracious, what insight -- and so simply expressed! Thank you.

    Nancy C

  54. I'm getting to the point where, unless it's a Seekerville author, big name inspirational publisher or author that I know, I don't want to read it. Why? Because usually they are missing the part of making me care! Love your novels, Margaret and would love to win this one. Thanks for the coffee, Helen and for the treats

  55. When I have a vested interest in the characters, I know that the story will indeed stay with me. Some have stayed, as you said with LITTLE WOMEN, all my life.

    I would love a copy of WAITING FOR MORNING thank you.

  56. Margaret,

    This is just what I needed. My edits are in and were complimentary in so many ways BUT!!

    I'm too distant and need to get closer emotionally.

    Perfect timing on this post. Thank you!!! Off to work!!! :)

  57. Great post Margaret! You're talent amazes me!!!

  58. Thanks everyone for all your great comments. This has been fun and the coffee's great!

  59. I enjoyed reading your post Margaret.
    So true, I like to "feel" the story and characters in the book as I read it. Some stories fall flat for me when they don't capture my feelings/interest, especially in the first couple pages. I love reading a book that draws me into the story from the first page to the last making it so hard to put the book down.

    I would love a copy of Waiting for Morning.

    Blessings, Tina Rice

  60. Oh, man, cannot BELIEVE I am a day late and WAY more than a dollar short!!

    Forgive me, Margaret, for coming late to the party, but WOW, what a party!! The minute I saw your header, "Let's Get Emotional," I KNEW this was my kind of blog because "emotional" is my very favorite thing!!

    LOVED this post because making our readers "feel" the character's pain, joy, doubt, whatever is, for me, what it's all about, both in reading AND in writing.

    Your example of Jack Nicholson from As Good As It Gets is SO good because I never in a million years expected to like that guy in that movie, but boy, the director and author sure did their work because I (and millions of others!) ended up really liking and empathizing with Melvin.


  61. I would love to win this awesome giveaway and God Bless!
    Sarah Richmond

  62. Thank you for the wonderful advice. I enjoyed reading your post. Love your books. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your giveaway.
    Barbara Thompson

  63. Thanks for all your wonderful tips about showing emotion in writing. I enjoy many types of books but my favorites are ones that make me laugh or cry. Some books do both!
    Thanks also for the chance to win a copy of Waiting for Morning. I read the first book of this series and really liked it.