Monday, March 7, 2016

Read 'Em and Weep: 6 Tips for Moving Your Readers to Tears

with guest Keli Gwyn.

Have you ever plunked yourself down in a plush theater seat to watch a Nicholas Sparks’ movie, knowing full well that a sad ending might turn you into such a splotched-face mess that you’ll slink to your car afterward, hoping you don’t encounter anyone you know along the way? I have.

Why do I do it? After all, I’m a fan of romances, where there’s a guaranteed Happy Ending. The best answer I can come up with is that I enjoy watching movies that move me.

When you think of an author who makes you reach for a tissue—or two or three—who comes to mind? I’m sure you can come up with several.

The first one I thought of was Katie Ganshert. When I read her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter, I reached a point in the story where I wept. No. That’s not true. I bawled my eyes out and sported a Rudolph nose afterward.

Since Katie is my friend, I arranged a time to talk about her story. I was eager to tell her how powerfully it had impacted me. And—I’ll confess, since Katie already knows—I wanted to find out how she’d done it.

We spent an hour on the phone. Being the nice person she is, Katie didn’t seem to mind. Now that I’m a published author myself, I can understand. But I didn’t have a book out at the time and didn’t want to bother her. I’ve wised up since then. Readers rock! Readers who take the time to gush about our stories can send us soaring so high we have to look down to the see the mountaintops.

When Tina offered me the opportunity to visit Seekerville again, I suggested tackling the topic of stories that lead to tears. When she accepted my idea, I contacted Katie to see if she’d share some of her wisdom with you. She agreed, so you’ll get my thoughts coupled with a bit of her brilliance.
• • •

Katie and I have come up with six ways to evoke emotional engagement in your stories.

1. Create characters so real and so sympathetic that we care deeply about them.


If we’re invested in the main characters of a story, we’ll be eager to see good things happen to them. When tough stuff comes their way, we’ll hurt for them. When they suffer, we’ll suffer along with them.


Keli ~ To make my characters as real as possible, I endow them with some good traits—along with a flaw or two. I can’t relate to perfect people, so my characters are works-in-progress, just like me. Throwing some past wounds into the mix can help, too.

The hero of my March Love Inspired Historical, A Home of Her Own, was injured in an explosion and left with a scar on his face—and a chip on his shoulder. James has endured a number of losses and turned his back on God, believing He doesn’t care. To his credit, James loves his ailing mother deeply and would do anything to make life easier.

Katie ~ I confess, sometimes my characters aren’t super likeable when we meet them. Readers were split on Bethany, my heroine in Wildflowers from Winter. Same with Ivy from A Broken Kind of Beautiful. The key, for me, when it comes to creating characters that move readers is creating a sympathetic background. And then, of course, finding a poignant way to reveal that background to the readers.

In Wildflowers from Winter, this revealing came in the form of short first-person vignettes sprinkled throughout the story. In A Broken Kind of Beautiful, the reveal came through the eyes of another character. Arguably one of my most beloved characters amongst readers—Ivy’s stepmother, Marilyn Olsen.

2. Create high stakes. Give you characters something (or someone) to lose.   


I don’t know about you, but I find it’s often easier to sympathize with someone who is going through a tough time than it can be to rejoice with someone who is enjoying success, especially when I’m not. When I encounter a character with a lot to lose, I can empathize. While I have no idea what it feels like to win the lottery or be handed the keys to a brand new BMW, I do know what it feels like to love someone and have that person’s life on the line or to cling to a dream, only to have my hopes of achieving it dashed. 


Keli ~ While it’s obvious from the beginning of A Home of Her Own that James is

concerned about his mother’s declining health and is terrified at the thought of losing her, I quickly established a connection between his mother and the heroine, too. That gives Becky an emotional buy-in from the outset of the story. Both have someone to lose. In addition, Becky, who is on the run, is concerned about losing her freedom—and possibly even her life—if her abusive brother finds her.

Katie ~ In Wishing on Willows, Robin is trying to save her café. That’s all well and good, as the café is her livelihood and livelihoods are important. But what makes the stakes higher—what really taps into the readers’ sympathies—is what the café represents. It’s the dream she and her late husband shared. If Robin loses the café, not only does she lose her job; she loses another piece of her husband.

3. Take away something or someone your character cares about deeply, or withhold something your character wants. 


When characters I care about suffer loss, I feel their pain. Tapping into my grief brings the emotions I experienced to the surface, and I ache along with the grieving character.


Keli ~ James has suffered one loss after another. He lost his career and his looks as a result of the explosion—along with the woman he was seeing. Not long after James fought for his life, his father passed on. Learning that his beloved mother has cancer and that he could lose her, too, is a crushing blow.

Katie ~ Sometimes, we don’t even have to take anything away. We can simply withhold something our character wants. Just as most of our readers will be able to empathize with loss, they will also be able to empathize with longing. It’s what I did with Carmen Hart in The Art of Losing Yourself. She yearns for a child—a common desire amongst women. It was a longing I withheld, and one of the reasons why Carmen strikes such a deep chord in readers.

4. Don’t be afraid to tackle tough subjects.


Tough subjects evoke emotion because we put ourselves into the character’s place. Even if we haven’t experienced what they’re going through, we can sympathize.H


Keli ~ Choose an emotionally charged topic or situation. There are plenty to chose from, such as an abandoned or neglected child, a victim of abuse, a difficult diagnosis, an injury. Becky arrives in California bearing bruises she received at the hands of her own brother. But it’s worse than that. He falsely accused her of arson, and she was forced to flee. Forcing our characters to deal with challenges as great as these puts them under intense pressure and shows us what they’re really made of.

Katie ~ I agree with Keli. We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle tough subjects, so long as they arise organically from the story. My editor has taught me a lot about this. If we’re throwing in tough circumstances just for the sake of having tough circumstances, we’re dipping into melodrama and we should proceed with caution. This was the case with A Broken Kind of Beautiful. Originally, there was a thread about a hereditary neurological disorder that lent itself to some really weighty scenes (my favorite kind to write). But my editor saw what I couldn’t see for myself. The disorder wasn’t necessary. Taking it out made the threads that were necessary for the story stronger and more poignant. 

5. Tap into your own emotions.


If we write with authenticity, readers will sense that realism in our stories and be more invested in them as a result.


Keli ~ We’ve all experienced loss of one kind or another. We might not have lost a loved one, but grief is grief. If we’ve lost a job, a pet or a friendship, we can tap into that those feelings and use it to evoke emotional reactions in our readers.

Katie ~ They say write what you know, which is lousy advice, really. I don’t know what it’s like to take my husband off of life support. I don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom or a teenager with an alcoholic parent or lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s. But I’ve written each scenario. The key—as Keli said—is tapping into those universal emotions we’ve all experienced. Fear, loneliness, heartache, confusion. You don’t have to live on planet earth for very long before you become acquainted with one of those. Start with a seed of truth and expand from there.

6. Have your characters fight their pain as long as possible before finally being overwhelmed and giving way to the emotions that have been welling up inside them.


When characters are fighting to keep their emotions under control, we often experience the emotional responses in their place, which can draw us even more deeply into the story.


Keli ~ Being a strong man, James struggles to contain his emotions. But a person can only keep feelings inside so long. I wept when I wrote the scenes where his self-control finally fails him, and I have a hunch readers might be moved to tears at that point as well.

Katie ~ I think this is a great way to evoke emotion. The longer our characters keep those emotions bottled up inside, the more tension builds in our readers. And the more tension we build in our readers, the more emotionally charged the moment will be when we finally hit the release button. 

 • • •

Stories such as Katie’s can move me to tears. You’ve seen why and how we work emotion into our stories.

I’d wondered why Nicholas Sparks does the same, and I got my answer—from the man himself. He grew up in the Sacramento area not too far from where I live and returned for a book signing at a Barnes and Noble a few years back.

A friend and I attended the event, along with some five hundred others. We got to hear Mr. Sparks field questions from his enthusiastic fans during a Q&A. One of his devoted readers asked him a question that had all of us on the edge of our seats eagerly awaiting his response: Why do you write stories that make readers cry, and do you have any plans to change that?

Mr. Sparks smiled and said that he writes what his readers want. To paraphrase, they like sad stories that make them hurt along with his characters, so he writes them. And, no, he has no plans to change unless his readers ask for something different. Since his books continue to fly off the shelves, it’s evident many readers want to be moved to the point of tears.

I’m curious. Do you like to read stories that have you reaching for tissues? Why, or why not? 

 • • •

My thanks to Seekerville for hosting me and to my talented friend Katie Ganshert for sharing some of her wisdom with you. You can learn more about Katie by visiting her website at, where you’ll learn about her amazing inspirational romances and young adult novels.
• • •

Award-winning author Keli Gwyn, a native Californian, transports readers to the early days of the Golden State. She and her husband live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, historical museums and other Gold Rush-era towns. Keli loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at, where you’ll find her contact information.

 A Home of Her Own

 A Blossoming Love

Becky Martin knows that she can't stay at James O'Brien's apple farm forever, but she wishes she could. After her brother framed her for arson, she flees Chicago, traveling cross-country to California and finding work caring for James's ailing mother. Beneath the apple blossoms, it's almost as if she has a real family…but her secret won't stay buried forever.

James, scarred from an explosion, didn't expect to connect to the pretty young traveler. Could she really love someone damaged like him? He knows she's hiding something. If only she'd trust him. Can she let go of her past and believe in the possibility of a future amid the apple trees?

It's not too late to Speedbo. Details here.


Wilani Wahl said...

Kelli I am so excited about your book. I would love to win a copy. I will also look for it next time I am in Walmart. I do love books that make me cry. I have read several books that do evoke that emotion in me. As a reader I love it when I can relate to the characters and they seem real. I have noticed at times I dream about the characters in the books I read.

As a writer, I am striving to write characters that are real. I am sure I have a long way to go in meeting this goal.

On the Speedbo front I made my goal today plus some.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Keli and congratulations on your release.

I have said it before , but I love, love this cover.

I never noticed it before but your book has a bit of a Healthcliff, Wuthering Heights tone to it. That is so cool!

Making me cry translates to me being so engaged in a story I forget I am reading. I am part of the story.

Thank you Keli and Katie for detailing how to do that as a writer. This is definitely a print and keep reference!!

Food for this party took extra thought.
Croissants from Essence Bakery in Phoenix.

French Butter Croissant
Double Bar Chocolate Croissant
Almond Croissant
Chocolate Almond Croissant
Gruyere Cheese Croissant

Trixi said...

Oh my what an emotional post!! I LOVE a story that invests me heart & soul, one where I can cheer, cry, and laugh right along with the characters. There have been some stories that have made me want to strangle the author because they put their characters through all kinds of anguish, you just want them to be happy! No I'd never do that, because I know there's always a reason why the author writes a story this way. Maybe because they want us to grow right along with their characters in some way. Ones where I can walk away after "the end" and feel like I've learned a lesson or two about something. Oftentimes, God uses that to teach me, speak to me or even nudge me in the right direction. Or show me how far He's brought me in my walk with Him :-) I've even been convicted a time or two, that's a good thing because maybe there was some hidden sin that I needed to deal with. See, God can use your words to speak to us! It's an awesome ministry tool to reach out to others.

And if a story can make me cry, you betcha I'm gonna LOVE it! I want to feel like your characters are my circle of friends, ones I can relate to in all aspects of life. You'll have me coming back for more, guaranteed!!

Thanks Keli & Katie for sharing how you move us readers to tears! Wonderful post. I have Keli's book already so no need to add me to the draw.

Cate Nolan said...

Wonderful post, Keli. I agree with Tina; this is definitely a print and keep one. You and Katie did such a great job explaining why it's important to torture your characters. I have to admit, doing it is my least favorite part of writing. I know some authors have fun with it, but I don't. I'd be much happier to just write a book with absolutely no conflict and no trouble. I know. BORING. I CAN do it, I just don't like to.

That is also probably why I don't read Nicholas Sparks. I want my happy ending. If I have to go through all that suffering with the characters, it darn well better turn out right. The only movie of his I ever saw in a theater was Message in a Bottle. That was before I knew how his stories end. I still remember walking out of the theater feeling shell-shocked (and cheated!!!!).

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I'm back to writing. Not sure my characters will thank you though. ;)

Cate Nolan said...

Oh, and add me in on the cover love. I think it's gorgeous!!!!

Jeanette Hill said...

Wow! What an insightful and educational post! I enjoy reading about characters I can connect with. I've written several characters that evoke emotion but (sadly) it was by accident. Thank you so much!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, I am with Cate Nolan. I am doing revisions now because I don't torture my characters enough. Sigh. Note to self. Make 'Em Weep.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jeanette Hill!!!

Kara Isaac said...

Love the post, Kelli (and Katie!). Katie is also definitely one of my go-tos when I want the kind of story that is going to have me shredding my way through a box of tissues. I was a mess reading The Art of Losing Yourself!

Keli Gwyn said...

Congratulations, Wilani, on moving forward with your Speedbo goals!

It's fun to make such deep connections with characters that they stay with us even after we've closed the pages. I love hearing that you've dreamed about characters from stories you've read.

Keli Gwyn said...

Tina, thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest at Seekerville. I love spending time here and chatting with all the wonderful Seekers and Seekervillagers.

Wow! To have my story compared to one of Brontë's is special. My hero, James, is tortured, but I love him anyway. The best part is that the heroine, Becky, sees through his somewhat brusque exterior to the warmhearted man inside.

The croissants are delicious. I'm munching on one of the French Butter ones. Yum!

Keli Gwyn said...

Trixi, your comment made me smile. I've been so impacted by certain books that I've wanted to tell the author--or the characters--a thing or two. In fact, I have. I talk back to characters as I'm reading. If I think they're being stubborn or unreasonable, they hear about it. I talk to my own characters, as well. I had some serious conversations with the hero and heroine in my debut novel, because they were quite stubborn and unreasonable at times. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Cate, I chuckled when I read your comment. I can relate to having trouble making things tough on my characters. In the full manuscript of my debut novel that I sent to my brand spanking new agent soon after she offered me representation, I made things hard for my hero and heroine--but only to the 1/4 mark, at which time things worked out for them. My agent kindly pointed out that I'd let all the tension go at that point. After an ah-ha moment, I rewrote the final 3/4ths of that story and made life much harder for my two main characters.

Being mean to my characters isn't easy, but I know it's necessary, so I do it. I feel for them and all I put them through, though. I've been known to reassure them that they can trust me to make everything work out for them in the end. Since I write romance, I can make that promise. =)

I've felt cheated at the end of some Nicholas Sparks movies, but I keep going back. As I said in the post, I'm not sure why. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say it's because of my first tip. He creates characters I care about, so when they suffer loss, I suffer along with them. Perhaps doing so is cathartic somehow. All I know is I'm not alone because many read his books or watch the movies based on them.

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks, Tina and Cate, for your compliments on the cover of A Home of Her Own. When I opened the email and got my first glimpse of it, I squealed with delight. The Love Inspired art department does such a good job on our covers, as I'm sure you and all my other LI, LIS and LIH author pals would agree. I do think the design team outdid themselves on this cover, though, but I could be a wee bit biased. =)

Rachel Meyers said...

What a wonderful post, thank you! Some days there's nothing better than a tear-jerker. I think it's the sign of a really well-written book, if it sucks you into the world so well you're feeling right along with the characters.
Thirding/fourthing/however many-ing the cover love :) I will look out for this one, from the blurb it sounds like something I'd love to read!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jeanette, it sounds like you have an innate understanding of how to evoke emotion in your readers and are able to make it happen organically. What a gift! I'm not the slightest bit jealous. OK. Maybe just a teensy weensy bit. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Kara, Katie is a master of emotional stories. That's why I invited her to add her wisdom to my post. She makes me look good.

Keli Gwyn said...

Rachel, it's such fun to be drawn so deeply into a story that we empathize with the characters, isn't it? I know many talented authors who create stories like that, and I love reading them.

Cindy W. said...

Good morning Keli! Yes! I love to read stories that make me cry. When a story can make me cry it is because the characters have pulled me and helped me engage their story. I become part of the story. When a book is so well written that it makes me become one with it I know I have found an author I will continue to read again and again. Katie Ganshert is definitely one of those authors.

I agree with those who have commented on your cover art. It is beautiful!

Have a blessed week everyone! Go forth and Speedbo or read!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Jill Weatherholt said...

Thanks, Keli and Katie! I agree, Keli, Wildflowers from Winter had me reaching for the Kleenex...a beautiful and moving story. She's such a talented writer. Congratulations on your latest release! The cover is awesome!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What a marvelous duo pairing!!!! Keli, thank you for bringing Katie over to talk about emotions... And you guys did a great job of showcasing how it's done, book by book.

Thank you for doing that, showing the high stakes and how they matter.

When I read a book like yours or Katie's, I'm totally caught up in the fabric of story. What a blessing that is! For us readers, but also for yourselves. You've gone the distance to give us something very special.

Thank you, ladies!!!

Jackie said...

Hi Keli,

Thanks so much to you and Katie for sharing today. These are great tips to strengthen the emotion in our stories.

Keli, congratulations on your new book!

Bettie said...

Keli! Thank you so much for your wonderful insight. I think the books that have moved me to tears are the ones that I remember the most.

Congrats on your new book. I would love to win a copy and cry a few tears.

Have a blessed day everyone as you plug along on your Speedbo projects!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, KELI! I don't necessarily want to CRY when I read a story, but I do want to FEEL what the characters are feeling. To be close to them emotionally because I "know" them well enough to CARE what happens to them. This is a "keeper" post for sure! Thank you!

Debbie Clatterbuck said...

While I've not read anything by Keli Gwyn, but I am very interested in reading this book and seeing just how good a writer Keli is. Good luck everyone. Thanks for the giveaway. I need a good cry so I hope to win this one to see if it can make me cry. I dare it too. LOL

Caryl Kane said...

HELLO KELI and Seekerville! This was such an emotionally charged post....

Have a wonderful day. I'll be trying to reign in my emotions....

Janet Dean said...

Keli, welcome back to Seekerville. Thanks to you and Katie for the terrific points in this post! After reading it, I'm considering having my heroine withhold the pain of her past far longer than I'd planned.

A Blossoming Love sounds as lovely as its cover! I like to read emotional stories that make me cry or at least tear up, but I'm like Cate. Make me weep along the way but I want a happy ending. If I want sad endings, I watch the news.


Janet Dean said...

Tina, I'm having a hard time picking a croissant. Grabbing a knife to get a smidgen of them all.


Christina said...

This was a great post with lots of great information. Another post I will print and keep near by on my desk. I have a question about #4 - tackling tough subjects. I've been thinking about writing a story about an issue that I've been going through - empty nest. I know many moms go through it, but I've had an especially difficult time with it. I think it could be due to the fact that I homeschooled both of my children and have such a close relationship with them. My son moved out about a year and half ago and I still get weepy if I go into his empty bedroom. My daughter will graduate college in May 2017 and plans to move out west. Honestly, I'm dreading it.

Do you think a story about a heroine going through empty nest issues would be of interest to publishers?I'd love to hear your thoughts, Keli, and anyone else who cares to share. Again, this was a thought provoking post.

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Seekerville!

I read The Notebook and loved it. But I never read another book by Nicholas Sparks. I also don't watch his movies because I know they're going to end sad. I have a daughter who loves to cry. She loves somebody-dies-stories.

But I get what you mean about being emotionally invested. There's many books I've put down because I simply didn't care. The action was good, but I didn't care what happened to the people. So I shrug and so go ahead and die. LOL.

This post comes at a great time w/my Matchmaker's contest story. I only know generally where I'm going so this gives me a lot to think about.


Cindy Regnier said...

Great cover, Keli! I love reading and writing emotion. I don't often shed real tears over a book but I would admit to doing that in some of Julie Lessman's books. And who didn't cry when Beth died in Little Women? Thanks for the tips on strengthening the emotion in our writing. To me, that's what it's all about.

Paula Mowery said...

My favorite reader review was that my writing "thundered with emotion." I agree with Cindy. I like to read it and write it. It's like I can't help but write it. What does that say about me, right? LOL Recently a reader stopped me in the hall at church. She said, "I can't believe you let her die." It took me a moment, but I realized she was speaking of my latest book's storyline. After the reader walked away, I giggled to myself. Hooked another one with that emotion. Let's face it, those books I've read in which I found myself chuckling or crying are the ones that have touched me deeply. I remember those stories. Oh, I hope to leave that kind of indention in my readers. Great post!

Jeanne T said...

Keli. WOW. What a fabulous post. You and Katie just filled me up for the day. I always can learn more when it comes to creating emotion on the page. What you two shared makes so much sense. this is a copy and print post for me. :)

I love your new cover, Keli!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Keli What a dynamic post filled with wonderful tips for us writers. Of course we want to move our readers to tears. They can be tears of sorrow, joy, pain, laughter. Whatever, but the main thing is we want to show emotion. You and your friend Katie did a terrific job of showing us how.

Thanks for introducing us to Katie and thanks for posting in Seekerville today. What a blessing for us all.

And being a native Californian myself, I love all your research topics. Have fun today.

Sherida Stewart said...

Keli, thanks to you and Katie for this post. Each of your points provide great direction for adding emotion and empathy. I cry at the sad and the happy parts of stories. Nothing is better than ending a book with joyful tears after I've cried along with the characters during the tough times.

Please put my name in for your new book! And congratulations on another LIH release!

Olivia said...

Thank you, Keli and Katie. A blog to print! My takeaway was this particular paragraph:
Katie ~ I think this is a great way to evoke emotion. The longer our characters keep those emotions bottled up inside, the more tension builds in our readers. And the more tension we build in our readers, the more emotionally charged the moment will be when we finally hit the release button.
My characters can be improved by adding some festering emotional issues!
Please put my name in the cat dish for that wonderful book. Another load of wash and then off to write!
- See more at:

Myra Johnson said...

Keli, thanks for sharing these great tips from your conversations with Katie! The emotional experience is, for me, what makes the story. Even with TV shows and movies, if I'm not emotionally invested in the characters, the plot becomes inconsequential.

Keli Gwyn said...

Cindy W., I'm with you. Katie is a talented author who draws a reader so deeply into her stories that the real world fades away. And, oh, can she make us feel for her characters. She's a must-read for many for good reason.

Thanks for your kind words about my cover. I'm mighty happy with it. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Ruthy, I'm glad you enjoyed the post--and the croissants. I do believe you owe it to the rest of us to make another run to the boulangerie and replenish the stock after your munch fest, though. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Jill, I'm with you. Katie is an incredibly talented author. Her romances are so emotionally rich and moving that they ought to come with a warning: Have tissues handy.

Thanks for your kind words about my new release. =)

Kav said...

Yes! I adore an emotional read. Great bibliotherapy. And these are great points to keep in mind. Must print this out and post it strategically.

I've already ordered your book -- should come this week. Squueaaallll. Excited to start reading it and the other wonderful Love Inspired books I ordered.

Keli Gwyn said...

Jackie, I'm glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

Keli Gwyn said...

Bettie, there are some wonderful books out there that can move us deeply, such as Katie's. What are some of the memorable stories that have resonated with you?

Keli Gwyn said...

Glynna, giving readers rich stories that make them care for our characters and feel their emotions is something you do so well.

Keli Gwyn said...

Debbie, thanks for your interest in my story. While it made me cry, that's not surprising. I'm a charter member of the Weepy Women's Club. LOL I bawled at the end of Downton Abbey's final episode last night, a mix of happy tears, because I was thrilled for several of the characters, and sad tears, because I'm really going to miss spending time with them.

I don't guarantee my book will move readers to tears. We're all different in that respect, but I do hope it engages readers on an emotional level. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Caryl, your comment made me smile. I must have Downton Abbey on the brain today because the phrase "keep a stiff upper lip" comes to mind. =)

Tina Radcliffe said...

The boulangerie! Spoken like a woman.

No! I insist! You are our guest! You handle weeping, I'll handle eating! Back to Esssence Bakery!

Lunch run!

Grilled Cheese with Mozzarella,
Tomato & Basil

Toasted Signature Focaccia Bread with Fresh Mozzarella, Wilcox
Grown Tomatoes & Organic Basil
Jalapeño Croque Monsieur

Baked Ham, Gruyere Cheese
and Jalapeno Sandwich Topped
with Béchamel

Grass Fed Hamburger with Tomato & Arugula on Toasted Roll,
Served with Balsamic Mayo

Tina Radcliffe said...

Now, while we wait for our meal, Keli, tell us what you are currently working on.

And a little about an emotional writing day in your world. Do you have an office with a real door or are you an outdoor laptop writer??

Keli Gwyn said...

Janet, I'm glad you found the tips helpful. I'm sure readers are going to love your heroine and feel for her as she deals with her painful past.

I'm with you. I much prefer happy endings, which is why I read and write romance. I like to be moved and am OK with shedding a few tears along the way, but I want to see characters doing well when the story ends and we're forced to part ways. Rest assured that James and Becky in A Home of Her Own have a very happy ending. =)

Julie Lessman said...

KELI!!! Always great to see you here on this side of the blog, my friend, and you had me at "weep"!! Because, frankly, anything that bleeds the emotion out of me (because I have always felt God went a tad heavy-handed with me when he was doling out emotions), I'm am SO there!!

EXCELLENT POINTS, ALL, my friend, especially #5, tapping into one's own emotions. That is primarily how I write because it comes so naturally to me, I guess. That point reminds me of a story I read about Margaret O'Brien, the child actress who played the part of Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis. During this particularly emotional scene, eight-year-old Tootie (or older, can't remember) gets so upset that they have to move away because of her father's job, that she runs barefoot outside in the snow and decapitates all the snowmen they built that day. To prepare her for the scene, the director has Judy Garland tell Margaret that somebody is going to shoot a little dog and hurt him terribly. Margaret -- who owned a dog -- was so upset, she did the scene in one take. Now THAT's what I call using your emotions!!

TINA SAID: "Your book has a bit of a Healthcliff, Wuthering Heights tone to it. That is so cool!"

I couldn't agree me, Keli -- that cover is one of my favorite LI covers EVER!!


Julie Lessman said...

CATE SAID: "That is also probably why I don't read Nicholas Sparks. I want my happy ending. If I have to go through all that suffering with the characters, it darn well better turn out right."

LOL, I totally agree, Cate. Although I have to admit, ol' Nick hit it out of the park with me on A Walk to Remember, which is the one movie I have cried more tears over than any other (from the halfway mark on!), and even though it ends sadly, the Christian message is so powerful and potent, that I am always left with a good feeling.

You know, Keli, my comment above reminds me that the #1 thing that makes me cry in books is a poignant spiritual scene that resonates with my soul. I always judge my own books by how many Kleenex I go through when proofing the galleys, and it's generally about 10-12 KLeenex per book. EXCEPT for the last O'Connor book, when I had to say goodbye, which I went through about 30! ;) At any rate, I have noticed that it is ALWAYS the spiritual scenes that tear me up since they are all the results of wounds in my life that God has healed.


Julie Lessman said...

TINA SAID: "Okay, I am with Cate Nolan. I am doing revisions now because I don't torture my characters enough. Sigh."

LOL ... gotta feeling a lot of characters' lives just got a whole lot worse today because of this post, Keli ... ;)

CARYL SAID: "Have a wonderful day. I'll be trying to reign in my emotions...."

Mmmm, Caryl ... sounds like a challenge to me, don't you think, Keli???

CHRISTINA ASKED: "Do you think a story about a heroine going through empty nest issues would be of interest to publishers?"

Yes, Christina, I do! Revell actually told me when they bought A Passion Most Pure that one of the main reasons they bought it was the secondary love story between the mother and father, stating that an older love story was something they believed would really resonate with their readers. And Ruth Logan Herne has a number of fabulous books based on older love stories, one of my favorite being Try, Try Again.

CINDY SAID: "I don't often shed real tears over a book but I would admit to doing that in some of Julie Lessman's books."

LOL ... thanks, Cindy, that makes me smile. :)


Kathryn Barker said...

Thank you, Keli and Katie for all those fabulous tips on evoking emotion! My kids have always teased me about crying at doesn't take much. Even thinking about scenes from The Man From Snowy River, Steel Magnolias, Austrailia, etc., etc., etc. gets me teary-eyed.

I can "feel" it, "see" it, "taste" it, but writing those sections without coming across as contrived or stiff...well, I'm working on that!

One great Nicolas Sparks movie (not sure about the book) that ends with HAPPY TEARS (for me) is The Lucky One!!

Off to write my count for Speedbo today...and then French Toast for breakfast!

Happy Writing everyone!

Missy Tippens said...

What a great post, Keli! Thanks to you and Katie for sharing with us. I love stories where I laugh and where I cry (both in the same story!). :) They're the ones that stick with me.

Keli Gwyn said...

Christina, I can relate to your adjustment to the Empty Nest. I was a stay-at-home mom who poured my time and energy into our daughter. I volunteered at her school when she was young and was there so often that the other students thought I was on staff. LOL When our gal headed off to college, I was a mess the first year. I would walk through the supermarket, see an item I used to buy for her and burst into tears. Embarrassing, but true.

When Adriana graduated with a French-German major and headed off to work as an English-language teaching assistant in France right out of college, I was happy for her but sad for me. If that wasn't enough, she got a teaching assistant job in Austria the next year and extended it to a second, which she'll complete this May.

While it was hard to send our one and only off to college and then to watch her board those planes bound for Europe, I'm no longer as sad. I miss her, of course, but we keep in touch via Facebook chat and Skype. What's wonderful is watching her grow and become a confident, happy young woman. That change has come about because she's out there "adulting," as she likes to say. In order for that to happen, I had to let go and entrust her to the Lord's care. And you know what? He's a far better parent than I'll ever be. =)

So, I feel your pain as your children spread their wings and go soaring into the world solo, Christina. But as I'm sure many Seekers and Seekervillagers who have grown children can attest, it does get easier. I offer this as encouragement.

As to your question regarding writing about the Empty Nest experience, I can only give you my thoughts. I think almost any topic can be worked into a story. I would suggest that you do a search for novels that touch on this one. You can read them to see how they worked that element into their stories. Another avenue to explore would be non-fiction. A tip I've heard from agents is that if we want to address a topic such as this, it's helpful if we wait to address it until we've gone through the experience, learned the lessons the lessons the Lord has for us and have come out the other side with new insights we can pass on. Then we'll have something to offer our readers who are facing the challenges we did.

I hope this is helpful. I'm sure some of the talented authors in this group would have valuable insights to share.

Missy Tippens said...

Paula Mowery, that's so funny about your church friend saying that to you! LOL You did your job well! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Chris, I've considered the same thing, using empty nest in a story. I don't have a story where it'll work right now. But I may do it down the road. It's definitely very emotional! Of course, I have a couple of local friends who were very happy when their kids left the home, so they wouldn't relate. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Connie, in all fairness to Nicholas Sparks, he does have stories with happy endings. I've watched several movies based on them that left me smiling at the end. If I were better at remembering movies, I could give you a list, but alas, I'm not.

Creating characters our readers care for is important, although that does vary by genre. As you pointed out, action-adventures are heavy on the action. I'm all about the characters, which is why I read character-based stories. That said, I enjoy watching an action-adventure with my husband every now and then. I figure I owe it to him after the number of romances, rom-coms and period dramas he's watched with me. =)

I'm excited to hear that you entered the Manuscript Matchmaker's contest. I wish you all the best as you await the announcement. I would love to see your name on the list.

Mary Connealy said...

One of the things in a book that really makes me cry is Self-Sacrifice.
Someone giving up their own happiness for the greater good, giving up a chance for love so someone else can have what they want.

Well done, this makes me cry everytime.

I'm a little weepy right now thinking of the loving aunt who, after a book length struggle of course, gives up her dead sister's child for his long absent father. Who didn't know about the boy but now that he does, he wants him.

And then the dad marries her of course, but only after my tears have been shed!

Keli Gwyn said...

Cindy, I'm not surprised Julie has made you cry. She's a talented author and a great storyteller.

I'm so glad you brought up Little Women. I love that book. I have a hardback copy I bought when I was a young girl. It cost $10, and that was back in the days when I got 50¢ a week allowance. Buying that book was a big investment, but so worth it. My tear-stained copy sits on my shelves to this day. I've been downsizing recently. My personal library has undergone some serious pruning, but I have no plans to part with that particular book. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Paula, to have a reader say my story "thundered with emotion" would make me grin from ear to ear. Either that or shed tears of joy. Kudos on writing stories that move your readers so deeply!

Wilani Wahl said...

I don't just cry at sad endings, I cry at Happy endings as well.

Thanks for the lunch Tina!

I'm heading of to my writing, critiquing and editing, reading, and just maybe a little nap. With the medicine that helps with my bronchitis sleep disappears I haven't slept since Thursday. I hope what I am writing will make sense after being sleep deprived.

Keli Gwyn said...

Jeanne, I'm glad you found the post beneficial. I'm always looking for ways to ramp up the emotion in my stories. I not only read emotionally rich stories. I analyze what the author did that works so well.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

A wonderful, helpful post. Thank you! I usually prefer romantic comedies. A book that can make me cry is really accomplishing something. :) There have been a few--but not many.

Keli Gwyn said...

Sandra, I'm with you. I love being moved to tears for whatever the reason when I read. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they'll tell you I pack tissues at all times because my eyes are prone to leaking. When our daughter was two-years-old, I had to teach her what tears of joy were because I would shed them when she mastered a new skill. She thought I was upset or sad when I was anything but. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Sherida, it sounds like you and I have a lot in common when it comes to our reading experiences. I have to be careful when I read a novel from the library so that I don't return it with tear-stained pages. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Olivia, Katie has a real way with words, which is evident in her stories as well as in this blog post. Her tip you quoted was one of my favorites, too.

I wish you well on the writing--and the laundry. I often get so immersed in my story world when I'm writing that I forget I have clothes in the dryer, and they end up wrinkled. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Myra, I'm with you. For me it's all about the characters. I think that's why I have a hard time watching some of the action-adventures my husband enjoys. I crave that emotional connection.

Keli Gwyn said...

Kav, I hope you enjoy reading James and Becky's story. I certainly enjoyed writing it--even if the process did move me to tears at times. =)

I loved your comment about bibliotherapy. I think stories can be cathartic. A reader of A Home of Her Own told me she read my book following a difficult surgery and that it helped her through the experience. Comments like that remind me why I write.

Keli Gwyn said...

LOL, Tina. I parley vous no French, as was made painfully obvious when we visited our daughter the year she was working there as an English-language teaching assistant. But I did take note of the word boulangerie, since that's one place I could find tasty food. =)

I'll take one of those grilled cheese sandwiches. Sounds yummy!

Tina Radcliffe said...

For Connie Queen, I have to add that while I don't read all Sparks' books there are several that are outstanding.

The Guardian is one. As is The Rescue. Both are older books. I think his old stuff is his best.

Janet Dean said...

Keli, I never doubted your hero and heroine would find a happy ending. Can't wait to read the story!

Unlike you, I don't cry easily. I think the Seekers have the same two camps. But even if I don't cry, I'm touched by deeply emotional stories.


Keli Gwyn said...

Tina, in answer to your questions...

I'm working on my first contracted novella. Since I'm a wordy writer, I'm getting a good lesson in writing tight. I'm waiting to hear back on a proposal my LIH editor has. I've heard good news could be coming my way. =)

I do have an office with a door, which is a good thing since every flat surface inside is often piled high with papers. I don't want to spoil the image my local friends might have of me sitting at a clutter-free desk pouring words onto the screen with ease. =)

During the winter months, I can often be found draped across my favorite arm chair in front of the pellet stove with my laptop perched on a pillow in front of me. That's where I am right now. Cozy!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, thanks for the fancy options for lunch. I'm choosing the grilled cheese sandwich. Not sure about the jalapenos.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Thank you. Every surface of my office is packed with stuff. Blog post ideas, book ideas. You name it, I have it saved.

But only my office looks like this. In the rest of the house, minimalist is the key.

I stand avenged.

Lisa said...

I'm writing my first book. I now realize that the first 25K words or so are backstory. I was initially frustrated that I "wasted" so much time but I'm learning, as you wrote, this is what makes the character have depth. Even though it won't come out as I originally thought it's important and there are ways to tell that story without opening the book with it. Thank you for your insights and for taking the time to share them.

Keli Gwyn said...

Julie, it sounds like we're wired much the same way. God endowed me with a hefty dose of emotion. In fact, when Gwynly and I took the Myers-Briggs inventory during our premarital counseling, I maxed out on feeling. I kid you not. Carl, my science teacher fellow, came close to needling on the thinking side of the scale. Although we were the same in the other three categories, the counselor told us we could expect our marriage to be interesting. He was right. =)

What a great story about how the movie makers got that young actress to display the emotion they were after. I use that technique when I'm writing. I put myself into the scene in my character's place and will often get so deep into what the character is going through that I experience the same emotions and physiological reactions.

Angela K Couch said...

:) Great post! And fun reading through the comments. I actually take too much pleasure in "torturing" my characters, but I try to make it up to them by giving them a happy ending. I love emotion in stories and look forward to reading yours.

As for offices...someday I hope to have one. At the moment I am sitting on the floor in my kids' bedroom while they play. And someone just turned off the light so it's now hard to see my keyboard. AT least they are having fun, which means they don't need me, and I can write. Off to go do that now. :)

Tanya Agler said...

Keli, Thanks for your post. I love that what it all boils down to is writing characters people fall in love with so they care about whether something sad happens or what they have to do to get to their happy ending.

Personally, I don't like sad stories. I don't mind shedding a tear or two if I'm reading a romance, but (I'm going to be honest) I'm writing this today from a children's hospital day surgery room, and I love a happy ending.

Thanks for the post about how to write real characters that people will care about.

Keli Gwyn said...

Kathryn, it sounds like you're a fellow member of the Weepy Women's Club. I'm a charter member myself. Having such a tendency to tear up can be a bit embarrassing at times, though. Have you ever found that to be the case?

My husband has learned to deal with my misty-eyed moments. Being a Star Trek fan, he likens me to Counselor Deanna Troi in the Next Generation and calls me his empath. He's helped me accept this part of my makeup by pointing out how in tune with others I am and how I can use my abundance of emotion to enrich my stories. See why I love him so much?

Tanya Agler said...

Keli, Thanks for your post. I love that what it all boils down to is writing characters people fall in love with so they care about whether something sad happens or what they have to do to get to their happy ending.

Personally, I don't like sad stories. I don't mind shedding a tear or two if I'm reading a romance, but (I'm going to be honest) I'm writing this today from a children's hospital day surgery room, and I love a happy ending.

Thanks for the post about how to write real characters that people will care about.

Keli Gwyn said...

Missy, I'm with you. I like to encounter funny scenes as well as sad ones in a story. I've focused on the sad in this post, but I love making readers laugh, too. They tell me I do. The thing is, I have do idea how I accomplish that. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, self-sacrifice gets me every time. I don't know if you're a Downton Abbey fan, but I thought Julian Fellows made good use of that very technique in the final episode.

Keli Gwyn said...

Jess, like you, I enjoy romantic comedies. I'm such a Weepy Woman that they can make me cry, too. I shed tears of joy whenever I watch While You Were Sleeping. And I'm laughing so hard I'm crying whenever I see The Proposal.

Debby Giusti said...

Great post, Keli and Katie!

Books that made me cry? The last one I read was Kristin Hannah's HOME FRONT! Oh my! I sobbed a number of times in that story. A fantastic read, but I haven't been able to pick up any of her other books. I don't want to experience the pain I felt reading HOME FRONT. Silly, right?

Downton Abbey made me a bit emotional last night. Hate that it's ending. I loved that series! Will there ever be another one that good?

Debby Giusti said...

Karen Kingsbury often makes me cry.

I don't like to cry.

I don't want to cry.

I would much rather be on the edge of my seat with a good suspense. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Janet, I have friends like me who shed tears easily and those who don't. I empathize with the former and appreciate the latter. I will admit, though, to enjoying comments from the dry-eyed camp who tell me something in my story made them get misty-eyed. It has happened. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Tina, I crave order. Other places in my house prove that, such as my pantry, where the cans are right-side up in straight rows, one per item, or in my closet, where my clothes are all hung facing the same direction, separated by sleeve length and then by color. It's not hard when you wear purple and black, which I do. Like you, I'm also working toward a minimalist lifestyle. If only my office would get the memo.

Jeanne T said...

I've been thinking more about this post . . . I should have mentioned earlier that one thing you ladies shared that I'd never really thought about was writing the characters keeping in their emotions about what's happening, until . . . well, they can't. I never thought about that before.

And, I think something that makes me cry is when I read a character who struggles with one of the life lies I've struggled with hear and embrace the truth to counter that lie. For me, many of those are based in identity. When a character has a moving "a-ha" moment where they hear truth that displaces a lie they've believed, it just makes me cry because I can identify with it. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Lisa, I'm so excited to hear that you're working on your first story. I hope you're having fun with it and are experiencing the joy of creation.

I'm glad you're able to see that those pages of backstory serve a purpose. Getting to know our characters is what enables us to make them come to life on the page.

As I look back on my first book, I consider it practice. That particular story will never see the light of day, but I learned a great deal while writing it. I wrote four more practice books, but I was able to salvage them as I my grasp of the writing craft improved.

I wish you all the best as you move forward on your story.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL. Sorry to laugh, Angela, but I just got this visual of you on the floor with tykes dancing merrily around you and the lights going off.

And Lisa! Save those backstory chunks in a Notes folder for your manuscript. You can often weave in some of it with dialogue later in the book. Toss nothing. If nothing else, reading it over will give you scene ideas later.

Keli Gwyn said...

Angela, I admire authors who have no trouble being tough on their characters. I'm such a softie that it's hard for me to be hard on them, but I force myself. As I said in an earlier comment, I talk to my characters when I'm putting them through the wringer and assure them that things are going to get better and that they'll appreciate their HEA all the more because of what they've been through. I don't know if that helps my characters, but it makes me feel better. =)

I also admire you for writing while mothering little ones. I don't know how you do it, but I applaud you.

Keli Gwyn said...

Tanya, my heart goes out to you as you sit in that children's hospital. I pray all goes well.

I can see why you'd want nothing to do with sad stories at a time like that. If it were me, I'd be reaching for a romantic comedy that could make me laugh instead.

Keli Gwyn said...

Debbie, some readers like to be deeply moved. Others don't. That's why it's great that there are stories out there for all of us. I'm glad you're writing great stories that make romantic suspense readers happy.

Keli Gwyn said...

Jeanne, I learned the tip about having characters hold in their emotions for as long as possible from a more seasoned author. Once I did, I watched for that scenario in the stories I was reading. Lo and behold, the technique works. A heroine would be fighting tears while I had them streaming down my face.

I love seeing a character face a lie, realize it as such and embrace truth. Those moments resonate deeply with me because, as you said, I can relate. Even more so when they grasp a spiritual truth, as Julie mentioned.

Angela K Couch said...

Keli and Jeanne, I find that too. And it makes sense. Tears release emotion. When the charactor cries too early, it releases the reader's emotion too, before it has a time to build. The trick if to "break" your reader's emotional fortitude before your characters. :) At least that is my opinion.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Keli! Great to see you here and congrats on your new book! It's in my TBR pile right now!
And we get great advice from Katie, too! I rarely cry at books, but Katie's made me cry. She sure pulls the heartstrings!
Thanks for sharing your great insights!

Marianne Barkman said...

Great post, Katie and Keli great comments. I wouldn't think of going to a LI for the real emotional books only because usually I find that in the longer books, or even in series books where you get to know the characters intimately. If an author can do that, it's amazing. And yes, I know Katie does!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Keli, your request has been forwarded to me by my staff, and I've just sent a footman around to Maison Kayser to fulfill your order, and we will happily have a new selection of new and old favorites along the first veranda wall.

I get emotional about books, of course.

But I get downright excited about FOOD!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Grass fed hamburger????


Oh, dear heavens, bring those cattle here and I'll put them on proper marbling corn and sorghum!


Tina, I'm starving and that lunch looks mighty good!

Jan Drexler said...

Ruthy, don't knock the grass fed beef until you've tried it! The corn and sorghum may add the marbling, but the grass bring out the flavor. Yum! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Keli and Katie!

Great post. I also love to make readers cry because then I know I've touched their emotions. Thanks for the tips. :)

Meghan M. Gorecki said...

On point #1: SO important.
(Glad to know I'm not the only author who's gotten conflicting/torn reactions to heroines and how sympathetic (or not) the reader is to them...)
It IS very important to make them sympathetic--empathetic, more like. Yes, they are flawed, not always the most lovable people but there is definitely a need to make them soft, human--and not hard. Or so my tendency has been in the past.
Great post! :)

Sandy Smith said...

Congrats on your book release Keli. I would love to win a copy.

I do like books that move me and don't always need a happy ending. Thanks to you and Katie for all the great tips.

Keli Gwyn said...

Angela, I love this: "Tears release emotion. When the charactor cries too early, it releases the reader's emotion too, before it has a time to build. The trick is to "break" your reader's emotional fortitude before your characters."

Well said!

Keli Gwyn said...

Sue, when it comes to working the emotions, Katie is a master. =)

I started your latest release, A Worthy Heart, a couple of nights ago. I'm enjoying the story. I see it's another two-fer: two romances in one. Doubly delightful!!

Keli Gwyn said...

Ruthy, thanks for having my lunch delivered. That's so thoughtful of you.

I've often said that I could have a drive-up window installed and my meals dropped offed daily, I'd be happy. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Jan, I wonder what it says about us that we find it kinda fun to mess with our readers' emotions. LOL

Keli Gwyn said...

Meghan, creating imperfect, somewhat irritating at times, emotionally wounded characters who are still likable can be challenging, can't it? But it's sure fun trying to get it right. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Sandy, happy endings are nice, but every now and then a sad story can resonate with me, too. I think it depends on my mood.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aw, Jan, I was just teasing Tina because it's fun!

We have a couple of wonderful grass-fed growers here, and their beef is amazing.

But I did just write a whole series of books about a cattle-to-feed-lot-to-market operation in Central Washington, so I have to give the Double S a shout out.

You know how it is. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Well, Tina will yell at me if I fail to feed folks.

Because it's rude, right???? :)

So, Keli, what's next on your agenda, and I can't wait to read this one! (But it is behind Jan Drexler's "Hannah's Choice" which is calling to me!!!)

Keli Gwyn said...

Ruthy, my next book is another LIH. Make-Believe Beau will be released in August. I'm looking forward to readers meeting Flynt and Jessie and seeing what happens when they're forced into a courtship neither of them planned on.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

WE ARE THE SAME MONTH!!!!! Her Unexpected Family is in August!!!! SHELF-MATES!!!!

Katie Ganshert said...

Hey friends - you are all so much fun! What a great community here at Seekerville! Thanks for inviting me to take part in the past Keli! LOVE the cover of your latest!

Janet Dean said...

Keli, Misty-eyed works for me! I can cry. But I'm no Missy.

Psst, don't tell!


Keli Gwyn said...

Ruthy, that is way cool! I'm looking forward to August even more knowing we're going to be shelfmates. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Katie, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share some of your brilliance with the Seekers and Seekervillagers. You rock!

Keli Gwyn said...

Janet, I'm not surprised that you're more the misty-eyed type than the splotchy-cheeked mess I become when a story or show moves me. I've had the privilege of meeting you in person and know what a lady you are. Like our heroines, I can imagine you gently dabbing at the corner of your eye with a lace-edged hankie while I'm mopping my face with a big ol' bandana. =)

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

A nice post. And, in answer to your question about liking books that make me cry: It depends. Is there enough happy to go along with it? Does it end with a sense of hope? Great. But I have read a book that not only made me cry, but left me feeling so hopeless that I was depressed for days. This is more likely in secular books (which it was) where there is no thought for the hope of salvation / heaven.

The problem with ending a story with tragedy, where the mood of the book allows for no hope, is that it traps the reader in the tragedy. In real life, tragedy strikes but we move on ... We heal. But I think you can have just as much emotional impact by incorporating such tragedy into a novel ... But then moving the story forward to show how the character moves past the pain.

I also don't like when the pain is dragged on and on (funeral details and people's reactions to the death for chapter after chapter) and I'm forced to cry and cry until I have a headache and feel like I'm getting sick. I have seen this once in a Christian novel. I just wanted the story to move forward.

The bottom line is that all these stories were good, with good writing. But the one that left me feeling hopeless (it was a trilogy), didn't have me coming back for more.

Keli Gwyn said...

Lara, I'm with you. I can take sadness, but I want plenty of happy to go along with it. I like to think I've achieved that in A Home of Her Own. Here's what the reviewer with RT Books Reviews had to say: "Gwyn’s stand-alone is a worthwhile read with a beautiful storyline of two individuals who believe themselves to be damaged. Not only is A Home of Her Own a Top Pick, but this story is also a superb reminder of how one’s past doesn’t define one’s future."

James and Becky face some challenging situations that test them, but with the Lord's help, they overcome the hurdles and reach that Happy Ever After we romance readers love.

Isn't it great that there are so many wonderful books our there for us to choose from that are chock full of faith, hope and love? I'm sure you can think of many that have left you feeling uplifted and happy. I know I can. =)

Chill N said...

I read more for entertainment and enlightenment that to share others' problems ... but as long as it isn't heavy-handed, a good story will win me over every time :-) Your point about having the characters fight their pain as long as possible before being overwhelmed and giving way to the emotions is, for me, what makes a romance work. When those characters finally quit fighting their fears and admit they're in love -- wonderful!

Wishes for the best to Katie and you!

Nancy C

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thank you for the wonderful tips on how to move our readers to tears, Keli. I'm sure I'll reference this list often as I write.

I remember the first Nicholas Sparks' book I ever read, A Walk to Remember. I was sitting in the living room reading, and about three chapters from the end, I could feel myself starting to tear up. I didn't want anyone to see me cry, so I decided to go into my bedroom to finish the book. I'm laying on my bed reading, tears streaming down my face, and my fourteen year old son walks into my room, looks at me, says "Mom, it's just a book," and walks out of my room shaking his head. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Nancy, I, too, read for entertainment. A hot bath accompanied by a few chapters of a romance novel is how I end my day. I don't want to delve into deep topics that make me ponder at that time. I want to be swept away in a sweet story. I love that there are so many wonderful ones out there that do just that. Ah oh, do I eagerly await those HEAs. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Rhonda, I watched A Walk to Remember on the big screen and wept. It's a moving story. I don't want a steady diet of tear-jerkers, but I do appreciate one from time to time.

Tina Radcliffe said...

"my fourteen year old son walks into my room, looks at me, says "Mom, it's just a book," and walks out of my room shaking his head. :)"

Oh, that's too cute, Rhonda.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks for stopping by, Katie. And thanks for all the helpful tips!!

Cara Lynn James said...

Keli, this is great! I never really thought about eliciting the readers' emotion and making them cry in a good way, of course. If I'd actually thought about it, I wouldn't have known how. So thanks.

Keli Gwyn said...

Cara, I'm glad you found the post helpful. =)

Debra E. Marvin said...

great points, Keli! Congratulations on the current and upcoming release for LIH! I enjoyed hearing form you and Katie.

(back to Speedbo...gotta run)

CatMom said...

Sorry I'm so late stopping in at Seekerville today (had kind of a "chopped-up day"). Just a few quick times on my computer, but now I'm finally sitting down for what I hope will be several hours to work on my SPEEDBO story! Have two cups of coffee and I'm ready (never mind the fact it's after 8:30 p.m. here, LOL!).

WONDERFUL post, Keli - - thank you so much. You and Katie have shared some great tips and this is definitely a Keeper Post for me. :)

As you already know, I LOVED your latest LIH release, A HOME OF HER OWN. And I'm already excited about your upcoming LIH too. YAY KELI!!
Hugs, Patti Jo

Cate Nolan said...

Tina, Yes about The Rescue. I really loved that book.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Tina, that fourteen year old boy will be twenty-nine next month. Where has the time gone? Think I may need to call him and ask him if he remembers the day he caught me crying in bed reading a Nicholas Sparks' book...

Just Commonly said...

Wonderful post Keli! Number 4 & 6 always gets me. I love a a story that relates and brings out my emotions. Sometimes a just need a good cry and stories help! Even when I didn't expect it, I feel good afterwards.

Thank you for stopping at Seekerville! Love your cover! Sign me up for the giveaway for sure. Thanks!

Keli Gwyn said...

Debra, thanks for sharing in my excitement. I wish you all the best as you race to meet your Speedbo goals.

Keli Gwyn said...

Patti Jo, you've been such a wonderful cheerleader for me and my stories from the very beginning, and that means the world to me. It's my turn to cheer you on as you aim to meet your Speedbo goals. Go! Go! Go!

Keli Gwyn said...

Just Commonly, I know exactly what you mean. There I times I want to offload some of the abundant emotion that wells up inside me, and a moving story can do that.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

I'm really late getting to Seekerville today but I'm sure glad I didn't miss it completely. Wonderful post, Keli and Katie, thank you! Love the cover for A Home of Her Own - beautiful!

Running behind on my Speedbo goal today so it's back to writing for me now. I have an hour and a half until midnight. I can do it :-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Keli, just in case I don't see you before you leave, thank you for being such a lovely and attentive hostess today. Please thank Katie as well! It's almost midnight EST, release day for you!

Happy Release Day!!

Heidi Robbins said...

I'm late too but I was looking forward to reading this! I don't seek out books that will make me bawl since I don't like going through the wringer emotionally (Why I've never read Jodi Picoult), but if I shed a tear or even a little sob it tells me that the author was completely successful at bringing me entirely into the story. I love my happy endings and I also love feeling that connection with the characters!

Terrill R. said...

I love to have a good cry with a book, but please don't neglect giving us the HEA. I absolutely need it after the emotional breakdown. What I don't like is reading reviews that tell me to "bring the tissues" or that they bawled, b/c then I have expectations. When I expect it, it usually doesn't happen and I feel cheated. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Laura, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to stop by and read my post.

I wish you well as you race to meet your Speedbo goal for the day. I'm cheering for you out here in California.

Keli Gwyn said...

Tina, thanks so much for the opportunity to be a guest blogger. I enjoy spending time in Seekerville. It's such a great place for fun, friendship, education and encouragement. Plus the virtual fare can't be beat. The croissant and sandwiches you served today were delish!

Thanks for the good wishes for my release day. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Heidi, I don't seek out books that turn me into a blubbering mess either, but I do like being moved. That said, I'm all about a HEA. That's why I've been a romance reader for over forty years.

Sheesh! That makes me sound old. Oh, well. I did take up romance reading back in the Dark Ages (aka 1970s) when Harlequin romances were squeaky clean and the entire story was told from the heroine's POV. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Terrill, evoking emotion in our readers is a good thing, but there's so much more to a story than sad moments. I like generous helpings of laughter and joy, too--a literary feast with a HEA for dessert.

I hadn't thought about reviews with "tissues-needed" warning as setting up expectations in other readers, but I see how that could be the case. Then again, don't reviews that promise "you will love this story" do the same thing? I suppose it could be said that a review reflects that particular reader's reaction to the story. It's late here in California, so I'll have to ponder this when I'm more awake. Thanks for giving me the food for thought.

Edwina said...

Hi Keli,

I'm super late! Thanks for the great tips. I love a good cry when reading a book. I think evoking tears from the reader is a sign that the author has done her job well - getting the reader totally involved with the story and especially, the characters.

Please enter my name in the drawing!

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Thanks for the super tips Keli and Katie! I agree it's important to "go there" with the story and invest enough in the story that there is a point where the reader can jump off the cliff with you and really be invested alongside while the story progresses. The stakes, it's all in the stakes, so critical Keli. When I was taking writing classes, we also learned to make sure the protagonist agrees to the "quest" and I've noticed this point in movies and books ever since. Having them sign on rather than assuming they're in makes the reader pause also, and makes it more realistic, whether in fantasy or romance.

Happy release Keli, too!

Rebecca McLafferty said...

This was a powerful article. Getting into the reader's heart makes the whole story worthwhile. Those are the books that we hate to see come to an end and hope for a sequel! Emotional intensity rock the worlds of everyone concerned...writer and reader. Great job! Now...back to Speedbo!

Keli Gwyn said...

Edwina, you sound like the kind of reader I am. I like being moved by a story. Some sad tears are OK, but I tears of joy are nice, too. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Elizabeth, I appreciate the reminder about having our main characters agree to the "quest." Those moments of decision can be powerful and can help engage the reader.

Keli Gwyn said...

Rebecca, I loved this: "Emotional intensity rock the worlds of everyone concerned...writer and reader." So true.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Great suggestions, Keli. Thanks so much!

Una said...

I would love to win Keil's book so I could read it.

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Davalyn. I'm glad you found the post helpful.

Keli Gwyn said...

Una, you're entered in the drawing. The winners will be announced the Seekerville Weekend Edition post this coming Saturday. I look forward to seeing who I'll be sending the copies of my book to. You could be one of them. =)

ohiohomeschool said...

As a reader I do like to be moved, but it must be real. It must be worthy of tears, not just stuck in a book. Thanks for your thoughts
. I would love to win your book.
Becky B.

Keli Gwyn said...

Becky, your name makes me smile. Becky is the name of the heroine in my March release, A Home of Her Own.

Like you, I enjoy stories that are real. If I feel like an author is trying too hard to evoke an emotion, the story can lack authenticity.

I think the reason I cried when I wrote the sad scenes in my book is that I lived them. The emotions I attempted to put on the page came from deep inside where I've stored the memories of a bittersweet time in my life.