Monday, November 10, 2008


Janet here.

If we writers want to sell or keep selling books, readers must care about our characters. To make characters come alive, we give them strong internal and external goals, believable motivations and oodles of internal, external conflict, creating tension on every page. But no matter how well we do all this, our books will disappoint if we don’t produce strong emotion in our readers. As Vince said last week in his Seekerville post "What Mega-Selling Authors Know That You Could Use to Boost Sales"—“Fans read romances to satisfy emotional needs that when neglected become cravings.” Providing that emotional read romance readers crave requires us to dig deep and that’s hard work. I hope these seven tools help you see ways to take the emotion in your novel to the next level—engaging your readers, satisfying that craving while taking the book to SOLD.

Empowering Characters’ Emotions” recommends giving characters strong physical reactions that show how your characters feel, instead of using the easy way out and telling readers. These physical reactions allow readers to interact with the characters, to get involved emotionally and to make the character more active, less passive. Don’t use the first thing that pops into your mind. We can be guilty of using pet reactions just as are at using pet words.

From my debut novel, Courting Miss Adelaide, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical:

He tried to lift his foot, to climb the steps leading into the house of worship, but he couldn’t move. Sweat beaded his forehead and the lump swelled in his throat until he felt he’d suffocate. He bent over and dragged oxygen into his lungs.
A cloud passed between him and the sun, covering him in shadow. A sudden chill streaked down his spine.
He couldn’t move. Couldn’t pray, couldn’t worship.
Too much stood between him and God.

In the excerpt above, I not only used physical reactions to build emotion in the reader, I also varied sentence structure, repeated words, and put the last sentence by itself for emphasis. Margie Lawson gives numerous methods to help writers create emotion by what words we use and how we put those words on the page.

2. ADD SPECIFIC DETAILS THAT BUILD EMOTION IN THE READER: Specific details—descriptions, senses, memories—make our characters 3-D so readers can actually see the character, instead of a vague, colorless version. Characters are shaped by their pasts, by their environment, by what they wear and how they’re treated. You can build any emotion you want by using details that show how the character sees the world.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

She’d been eight, when her mother, sick with influenza, sent Adelaide to stay with Winifred Cook’s family. Disorder reigned in the Cook household, but Winnie’s parents tucked the children into bed with a prayer and a kiss. What a revelation to discover not all children lived in a neat but silent house.
For weeks after returning home, Adelaide’s skin ached to be touched.
She’d tried to keep the warm feeling by stroking her arms and hugging herself, but it hadn’t been the same.

I could’ve said Adelaide’s mother never touched or rarely talked to her. Instead I used a detail from her past to show the deprivation of her childhood.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

Adelaide stepped inside, but didn’t dust the counter, didn’t wash the windowpane. Instead, she stood transfixed, watching Charles’s muscles as he pushed that broom like a madman.
A desirable, intelligent man cared enough about her to worry, to take a burden from her shoulders.
Like a husband would.The thought took her breath away, zinging hope through her, hope for a husband, and hope for children. She shoved it down. She had no claim to Charles, no need of a man. She took care of herself. And if God willed, she could take care of a child, too.
But oh, for a moment, she wanted to believe in the fantasy.

Notice the technique of listing what Adelaide didn’t do to show her emotional state. I italicized one thought, the stunning thought, for emphasis. Through her introspection, readers see the core issues for Adelaide. When writers show how the character feels with tight, strong lines, we don’t have to hammer at it. The reader gets it and cares.

4. ADD ACTIONS THAT CONVEY EMOTION: Watch movies or people to see what actions convey which emotions. Use actions to show how your character is feeling that will elicit an emotional response in the reader.

In this passage from Courting Miss Adelaide, Adelaide is talking to seven-year-old Emma at the breakfast table:

“Tell me, honey, why?” Adelaide continued massaging Emma’s back, and waited, every muscle in her body as tense as the small ones under her fingers.
Emma’s mouth tightened. She picked up her spoon and began shoveling the oatmeal into her mouth, avoiding the question.

I do a little telling here…avoiding the question…to show Adelaide understands Emma is hiding something, adding to Adelaide’s alarm and motivating her next action.

5. HEIGHTEN EMOTION THROUGH DIALOGUE: Writers can use not only what the character says, and how they say it, but what the character doesn’t say, to up the emotion. Dialogue should further the plot and develop characterization, but it’s also a great tool to give the reader an emotional read.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

“I remember how the hair on my neck would rise, how my gut would knot.” Charles swallowed against the old familiar lump in his throat. “How I wanted to run, but knew running would only make it worse. It was the same for you, wasn’t it?”
Slowly, William nodded.
Charles lifted William’s chin with a palm. “I want you to know something else.”
The boy’s tear-filled eyes, the color of the sea on a cloudy day, met his.
“It wasn’t your doing. None of it was your fault, William. You were never the reason for what was said or done. Never.”

This scene with Charles and William is pivotal for healing and was emotional to write. If you’re unaffected by your scenes, see if you can use dialogue or one of the other tools, or all of them, to stir you.

6. USE SETTING TO UP EMOTION: Setting can mirror or contrast the character’s mood. Setting can awaken or trigger emotions the character doesn’t want to face. Setting can build emotion in the reader.

From Shirley Jump's Marry-Me Christmas, Harlequin Romance, December 2008:

Flynn didn’t know how they had done it, but their path had taken them to the park where the Winterfest had been held. On purpose? By accident?
He paused at the entrance. The lighted displays--gingerbread men, snowmen, Christmas trees, teddy bears--had all been left on, layering the grounds with silent, twinkling enchantment. The people were gone, Santa and Mrs. Claus back at home, the stands and games shut up for the night. Only the reindeer remained, chomping on some hay in his pen. The blanket of night gave everything a spirit of magic, as if anything could happen, as if, on this night, wishes could come true.
What would he have given to have gone to something like this as a kid?
To have been able to bring Liam to Santa’s Workshop, to let him sit on Santa’s lap, and tell Santa what he wanted--
And even more, have Santa actually deliver what he and Liam really desired?
The one thing neither of them had ever had. The only gift ripped away, time after time.
A home. A family. A place he could depend on, knowing it would be there this December 25th and the next, and that there would be someone there who would hang the lights and string garland on the tree.
Flynn shook his head. Damn. He hadn’t intended to think about those days. Ever.
He felt a soft hand on his back. “Flynn? Are you all right?”
Sam. Her voice, so gentle, it called to him like a salve.
Maybe it was the timing. The darkness, punctuated by the sparkling holiday lights. Or maybe it was something more. Flynn didn’t pause long enough to question why, he just turned toward Samantha Barnett and gave in to the desire that wrapped between them as tight as a bow on a present, and kissed her again.

Jump is giving her readers the emotional payoff they want.

7. USE SYMBOLS TO HEIGHTEN EMOTION: Tangibles can stand for something abstract/intangible, be it a mood or an idea, and take on special significance in our books. Writers can use symbols to elicit emotion in the character and in the reader. When writers use the same tangible throughout a book, the symbol becomes powerful at creating emotion. Chances are you already have symbols in your story you can emphasize to add emotional depth.

From my second book Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, May 2009:

Turning to go, his gaze swept the enormous breakfront filled with medicine. Something stopped him, made him open the glass door. Finding what he sought, Luke clutched his remedy, then walked to the table, dropped into a chair and set the bottle in front of him. Doc had said the contents of this bottle mattered. Had been part of God’s plan.
Joseph’s suffering had led him to find this medicine, to dedicate his life to healing. God had used this remedy to bring Mary, Doc, and the boys into his life. The liquid caught the light from above, glistened with a shimmer of gold. An unbroken bottle, unblemished, and shining like a new start. Or so he saw it now.

The remedy/medicine is a symbol I used throughout the book. Sometimes it represented failure, but in this passage, it stands for hope, a new beginning for Luke.


From Courting Miss Adelaide:

Tears spilled over her pale lower lashes, becoming visible now that they were wet and spiky. If he didn’t do something, she’d start bawling. The prospect sent him behind his desk. He jerked open the top drawer and rummaged through it until he found what he sought—a bag of peppermints. “When I was a youngster,” he began, “on my way home from school, I’d pass Mrs. Wagner’s house. She’d be rocking on her porch, wearing a gray tattered sweater, no matter how hot the day...”
Emma stopped crying, but looked far from cheerful.
“She’d call me up on the porch, ask if I was studying and behaving. Then, she’d reach into the pocket of her sweater and pull out a peppermint.” Charles took a candy from the bag. Emma’s eyes widened. “She’d say, ‘You’re a smart boy, Charles. Work hard and one day you’ll make something of yourself.’ And, she’d drop the candy into my palm—like this.”
He opened Emma’s small hand and let a peppermint fall into her palm. When the corners of her mouth turned up in a smile, a peculiar feeling shot through him. As it had for him all those years ago, the candy once again worked wonders.
His entire adult life, he’d kept a stash of peppermints around, to remind him of Mrs. Wagner, the one person who had believed in him, who’d given him a desire to improve his lot. The candy still tasted as sweet as her words.

This scene with Charles and Emma gives insight into Charles’ life as a child and hopefully, elicits emotion in the reader.

When readers are given an emotional read, they care about the character and can’t toss the book aside. Editors, also, find it hard to reject a book that creates strong emotion in them. Look for passages in your WIP that tell the reader how the character feels. How can you use one or all of these seven tools in the writer’s toolbox to not only show how the character is feeling, but to create that emotion in readers?

Shirley Jump is giving away a copy today of Miracle on Christmas Eve, her first book in the Riverbend, Indiana series. Her second book in the series, Marry-Me Christmas will release this December. Leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing.

If you’re feeling brave, share a passage from your work that shows how you built emotion for your reader.


  1. Oh, Janet, what a WEALTH of great information!!! This is a keeper blog for sure and makes me want to pick Courting Miss Adelaide up and read it all over again! Shirley's books too!


  2. Thank you, Janet! I love this post, so chock full of good principles for writing deep characters. I especially like the examples you gave, as this really helps me understand how to implement the ideas for characterization into my own work.

  3. Janet,

    That scene with Charles and William had me running for the tissue box. Actually, I was reading late at night and very surprised that it made me cry. That happens very rarely.

    What a beautiful scene, as so many in "Adelaide" are.

    I'm thrilled to see you posting about how you wrote this wonderful book. I felt kind of discouraged after reading it, wondering how I could ever write something that touching.

    You are awesome for sharing your techniques in this detailed way.

    I'd love another copy of "Miracle," an example of another touching book.


  4. Julie, You write wonderful, varied physical reactions in your books. I keep planning to study how you do that, but forget when I'm caught up in the story.

    If it didn't take so long, I'd hae used all the Seeker books as examples for this post since you're all experts at showing strong emotion.


  5. Hi Erica, glad I could be of help to you. It's amazing how easy it is for me to get lax about every facet of writing. Examples always help me see how other writers handle what I need to strengthen. I keep hoping all this will come naturally one day. Anyone know????


  6. Hi Jennifer! What do you write? Glad you liked the post.


  7. The peppermints made me smile because I could imagine the scent and taste both. From there I could imagine how the desk drawer might sound. From there it spiralled out to what the desk might look like, how the little boy was dressed, all kinds of images from that one detail.

    Now I'm thinking of the lemon drops my Grandma kept in the drawer of her Hoosier cabinet.

    Things like that make such cool connections. Thanks for sharing!

    Coffee pot's on. Hazelnut today.

  8. Great post, Janet! Digging deeper into our characters shows us just how well we may not know them.

    I especially loved the correlation between show, not tell, not touch. When you brought up Adelaide craving the touch of another person, I knew immediately that was one area of character emotion where I fail miserably. Gotta work on that.

    Thanks, Janet. Great insights to starting another week of writing : )

  9. Hi Cathy, thank you for crying!!! :-) That's a wonderful compliment for a writer.

    One author I admired for her ability to make me laugh and cry was LaVyrle Spencer. I especially loved her historicals. I doubt I'll ever measure up to her standard, but I'll never give up trying.


  10. Audra, thanks for pointing out that we writers must know our characters before we can bring them alive on the page. For me that means delving into their back story. Once I know what shaped them, I have a handle on how they'd react. What memories they'd harbor. What details would be significant to them. How they'd think, act and speak.

    None of this works when we tell it. We have to show it.


  11. Excellent post Janet. I find myself struggling to break through the telling and into showing. You gave several great ideas and examples to help me grasp the idea.

    I have a feeling that I will end up doing lots of edits to my story. For now I'm just focusing on actually finishing my rough draft!

    Thank you,

  12. Ann, I didn't add all those senses you describe to the passage but could have. Sometimes we can try to do too much with a passage. The point was to show Charles' lack of ease with a child, as well as to reveal how a neighbor lady’s peppermints and praise impacted a young boy's view of himself.

    Thanks for the hazelnut coffee. I'm a terrible hostess this morning. I'm hungry. Where's Ruthy???????? :-)

    I love your reference to the Hoosier cabinet. We have one in our lower level. It belonged to my husband's family. The handles are stamped with H's and the top is covered with zinc, I think. I'll have to check that. Somewhere along the way we lost the flour bin, but we have the spice rack.


  13. Hi Marissa, You've got your priorities in the right order. Get that first draft done. Then look for ways to show emotion that fit into your scenes using all the tools at your disposal.


  14. Hi Janet,

    Great post! I agree with you about the back story being so important. I can't begin to write unless I know the two main characters whole backstory and what events shaped them, what events haunt them.

    Loved your book!


  15. Excellent post, Janet. And you've ignited the desire to read Courting Miss Adelaide :D I've been trying to use these tools already, though you've explained them better than other references I've read. Now I'm going to go back over chapter 1 (the contest entry!) and make sure it's tweaked to highest emotional potential. Glad I read this before entering the next contest!


  16. Okay, I hunted around for an character revealing emotion scene and came up with this, the first meeting between the hero and heroine in Of Mice. . .and Murder.

    A mouse dashed out of the kitchen closet twenty feet away.

    “EEEEE!” Carrie shrieked.

    The mouse skittered toward her. Carrie ran and collided with the carpenter, dashing in clutching his hammer.

    “What happened?”

    The mouse skidded to a halt under the table and squeaked.

    Carrie squeaked even louder and jumped. The carpenter caught her to his chest, hooking one arm under her legs, and the other behind her back.

    It was nice of a stranger to come to the rescue. He could do the whole white knight thing with his lovely height and broad shoulders. The hammer he held—in the hand now under her knees—made a fair lance, too.

    “Forgive me.” Carrie barely moved her lips.

    “For what?” The carpenter’s whisper pulled her attention away from the mouse.

    She ran one hand over the back of his collar, touching the black knit fabric, cool from working on Great-grandma’s unheated porch in the crisp November weather.

    Carrie noted the tidy logo of his company on his chest, where a little polo player ought to be. OC with the word O’Connor arced above and Construction in a half circle below. Both of the placket buttons on his shirt were neatly closed and his hair was combed and gelled as if he were afraid it would break out and go its own way. His eyes were a bit unruly with humor and kindness, though.

    “Oh, you weren’t supposed to hear that. I was praying for forgiveness.”

    Their eyes locked. His were dark blue, a rich color that begged for a closer look. Hers were blue, too, but washed out like her white blonde hair, the wimpy coloring of a pure Swede, not strong and clear like his.

    After way too long, he smiled and whispered again, “For what?”

    “Huh?” Her brain functioned slowly, somewhat like Jello.

    “What do you want God to forgive you for? Jumping into my arms?” His smile faded as if that hurt his feelings.

    “Oh, no.”

    The smile returned. “Good.”

    “It’s something I do when a mouse scares me.”


    “Because it’s a sin to be afraid of a mouse.”

    A dimple appeared on each cheek as he smiled wider. “Is not. I’ve never seen thou shalt not run and scream when you see a rodent.”
    Carrie switched from studying his eyes to his dimples. Really, a woman could keep busy forever. “It should be. It’s a sin to be this stupid about a tiny little creature obviously put on the earth by God to feed cats. Cats need to eat.”

    “Oh, well then, because cats need to eat, you’ve sinned for sure. And what does that have to do with you jumping into my arms?”

    “There’s a mouse.” She glanced back at the floor.

    The knight eased her back onto her feet. “Mouse, huh?” He gave her an I’m-not-rolling-my-eyeballs-through-sheer-willpower look that tarnished his shining armor. “It’s more afraid of you than. . .”

    “. . .than you are of it. I know.” And hadn’t Carrie just heard that a hundred thousand times before in her life. Hadn’t helped then, didn’t help now. Carrie saw the mouse turn and streak back under the closed pantry door, she grabbed a handful of the carpenter’s shirt front. He steadied her with a strong arm.
    “Yeah, right, it’s more afraid of me. Not even. Does that mouse lay awake nights fretting over, ‘What if a woman runs up my leg?’ I don’t think so.”

    “Uh, have you got a trap?”

    Carrie turned back to the white knight. “My hero.” The words sounded reverent. “In that sack on the table. Thanks.” She was just inches from him, and, since she was there anyway, she let herself get lost in his eyes again. This close she could smell his warm, clean scent.

    “I’ll see what I can do.” He seemed even closer. “By the way, I’m Nick O’Connor.

  17. Sue, I'm delighted to hear you loved Courting Miss Adelaide! Thank you!

    Sounds like we both enjoy delving into our characters' pasts. Maybe that's the reason I find it easier to write internal conflict than external. Do you have a preference?


  18. Hi Tammy, I'm blowing on those flames I've ignited. Unless you're wearing asbestos, the only way to put them out is to buy the book.

    If you can hook the reader--that's another post--and make her care, you'll have a winner. Wishing you all the best in the contest!!!


  19. Wow, Mary, that's the first time I've seen the heroine meet the his arms. Love the humor, the long looks, that his hair is tidy, his eyes unruly. Sparks are flying. What woman wouldn't love a man who can handle traps and hold her with ease? So tell us, is the mouse a symbol?


  20. I've gotta stop reading Seekerville (never!) - now I just have to get Mary's book, too. I had both (Janet's and Mary's) on the Christmas wish list but I don't know if I can wait that long :D

    Janet - I'm going to take chapter 1 and go line by line and make sure each one is packed with emotion. Well, make sure each one helps pack the paragraph with emotion. Thanks for the encouragement.


  21. Excellent, Janet! I loved Courting Miss Adelaide and was so touched by all the emotion in the story. Now I know exactly how you did it! Thanks for sharing. :)

    Mary, I loved your excerpt. Can't wait to read it!!


  22. Tammy my book is impossible to get unless you join the Heartsong Presents Mysteries book club. Book Club members get them first, which is the advantage of joining the club, right?

    It will, however, be available in June, when my three book series is repacked into an anthology called Nosy in Nebraska

  23. Well, now I'm feeling woefully inadequate, but I'll give it a shot.

    From my WIP, Dying for Dragons:

    Emma Harris pulled her hair into a ponytail as she hurried down the hall toward her campus mailbox. Out of habit, she always checked it early in the morning, on her way to class. Pulling out the note inside from Tracy, Dr. Lupkin’s secretary, she frowned, causing her glasses to slip down her nose. She knew what this must be about. Adjusting her glasses, she pulled her book bag up higher on her shoulder. Well, she might as well get it over with. The number for Dr. Lupkin’s office was programmed into her cell phone. It only made sense after the number of times she’d been asked to make an appointment.
    Emma heard laughter in the secretary’s voice when Emma told her the reason for her call.
    A sigh escaped her lips, but she realized that, were she Tracy, she would probably laugh, too.
    Balancing the phone between her shoulder and her ear as she walked, she pulled out a pen and a piece of paper to write down the time of her appointment. Her arm bumped into something.
    “Excuse me,” she said, looking up into the face of a tall, freckled young man with reddish-brown hair. She smiled when she recognized him.
    “Hey, Emma.”
    “Good morning, Nik,” she said as she closed the phone and stuck it back into her backpack.
    “Distracted much?”
    “Kinda. What’s up?”
    Nik Gary had been in school with her since their undergrad degrees. He was working toward a doctorate in Biology, while her Master’s program was in history, but they still saw each other around campus quite a bit.
    Nik adjusted the strap of the backpack that hung over one shoulder. “Hey, I’m glad I bumped into you. What are you doing later? Want to get some coffee or something this afternoon?”
    “I can’t. I have a meeting with Dr. Lupkin.”
    He leaned his tall frame forward, eyebrows raised with interest. “What about?”
    “He didn’t specifically say, but I’m guessing it’s about my thesis.”
    “Oh, Emma, you didn’t!”
    Emma gave him a wry smile. “I’m afraid I did.”
    “What were you thinking?” He raked his hands through his shaggy, red-brown locks.
    “I was thinking that I’ve studied hard and have come to my own conclusions. Dr. Lupkin told us to write something we’re passionate about, so that’s what I did.”
    “What if he doesn’t accept it?”
    She felt anger burning her cheeks. “He can’t not accept it.”
    “Well, then, what if the board doesn’t approve it?”
    She took a deep breath and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I’ll burn that bridge when I get there.”
    “Em, you shoulda just written on something you knew they would accept, and done the dragon thing on your own time.”
    “I’m not going to just say what people want to hear. That would be like sacrificing my beliefs just to be accepted, and I’m not about that.”
    “I know,” Nik said, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. “That’s one of the things I like about you.”
    Her pulse spiked, and she stepped back, lowering her eyes. “Nik, don’t.”
    Nik sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. Just friends.”
    “I have to run. I’m going to be late.”
    “Ok,” he said. “It’s time for me to fly, too.”
    She smiled. He never said “good-bye;” always just repeated that line from a song he liked.
    “Hey, call me when you get done with Dr. Lupkin, and I’ll take you to dinner,” he called as she hurried down the hall.

  24. Wow Janet - great post!

    I loved Courting Miss Adelaine and am so eager to read Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.

    I'm not familiar with Shirley Jump but it sounds like I'd enjoy reading her books, too.

    From a writer's viewpoint, you sure offer up a passel of good advice. Thank you.

  25. YAY! Avily.

    Good for you for posting.

    Everyone else is a BIG BABY for not tossing something out here.

  26. Mary, I absoulutely can not wait until June! Bad enough I have to wait for Gingham Mountain :P

    I've been considering the book club and you are the reason I even know about it (they better be paying you the big bucks - LOL)

    But this is way off topic - I just get so emotional about your books (there, brought it back into context :D)


  27. Okay, Mary has thrown down the gauntlet. Here's an offering from my WIP:
    A deep rumbling drew Caitlin to the kitchen window. A stranger backed her grandfather’s old Ferguson tractor out of the shed. She glanced up and down the street but saw no sign of Mr. Henderson.

    Unbelievable! This guy must’ve waited until Mr. Henderson left before stealing the equipment. Still, hadn’t he noticed her car? He really had nerve.

    Her dress swirled around her knees as she spun and stormed out of the house. If this guy thought he’d get away with stealing a vintage antique, he was in for a big surprise.

    The odor of gasoline assailed her nostrils as she approached the tractor shed. Mr. Bold-as-you-please had backed the Ferguson around to the far side of the building. She rounded the corner and crashed head-on into the stranger.

    He grunted. Caitlin stumbled backward, tripping on a rock. The tractor thief grasped her arms, saving her from falling.

    “Whoa, where’s the fire?” A hint of concern mixed with his humorous tone.

    She looked up into clear blue eyes. He raised an eyebrow, head tilted to meet her gaze. Unruly curls of blond hair topped a sun-bronzed face. His lips curled in a slow grin. Why had she come out here? Oh, yeah…

    “Don’t think you’re going to get away with this.” She pulled away from his grasp, glancing at her arm. She gasped. “You got grease all over me.”

    “I’m sorry.” He pulled a rag from a back pocket and swiped at the offending smudge. “I was trying to save you from falling.”

    “Oh, like it’s my fault. Stop that, you’re going to get it on my dress.” She took a step back and narrowed her eyes, trying to look tougher than she felt. What was she thinking, coming out here to confront this guy? Tall and muscular, she couldn’t defend herself against him if he tried anything.

    But he was stealing Grampa’s tractor. She had so little left to remind her of her grandparents. No way she’d sit by and let this guy steal her memories.

    “So why were you racing out here?” He tucked the rag into his back pocket.

    “Don’t act innocent. I’m not going to let you get away with stealing that tractor.”

    “Stealing?” He laughed. “I’m not stealing anything. And just who are you to stop me, anyway?”

    She put her hands on her hips, as if he was an insolent student. A car raced into the driveway beside them, stirring up a cloud of dust. Caitlin coughed, momentarily distracted from the confrontation. Her adversary folded his arms over his chest, glaring at the car. She recognized the driver as Mr. Henderson’s youngest son, Randy.

    “Hey, Caitlin, how are ya?” Randy called as he strolled across the dusty driveway. “I see you’ve met my cousin Sean.”

    “You’re late,” Sean growled. Randy grinned but otherwise ignored him.

    Caitlin’s gaze went back to the man she’d just accused of being a thief. “You’re Randy’s cousin? So that makes you Mr. Henderson’s nephew?”

    “That’s right. His nephew, who’s not stealing the tractor, just getting it ready to plow the field. Hope you didn’t call the cops.”

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t know who you were.” She backed away a few more steps, before causing more embarrassment to herself. “I’ll just go back to the house and clean off this grease.”

  28. Tammy, I think the trick is to vary the emotion. Sometimes, we're in your face with angry dialogue or strong physical reactions. Others, we use gentle descriptions and poignant details that doesn't hit the reader over the head with the emotion. Like when Charles shares the peppermints to keep Emma from crying. But as he talks to her, the reader sees how much he needed someone to believe in him as a child. Though the emotion is subtle, it can be effective.


  29. Hi Missy, Thanks for the nice words about Courting Miss Adelaide. I remember how much I enjoyed reading Her Unlikely Family. You need to write a post on hooks since you're opening is famous here in Seekerville.


  30. Avily, I love Emma's physical reactions to Nik's touch and her anger, then his gentleness in their dialogue. Nik's obviously not going to give up on her. The title and dragon thesis is intriguing. Thanks for sharing!


  31. I'm feeling brave, so I'll post another excerpt. Here, the heroine is feeling nostalgic about moving back to her childhood home. I used setting to convey her mood:

    Trees formed a gold and green archway over Maple Street. Spring sunshine dappled the pavement, flickering like an old-time movie as Caitlin drove through patches of light and dark. A densely settled lakeside neighborhood lay hidden just beyond the trees.

    The leafy tunnel ended, giving way to the open fields of her childhood. The road forked, curving left toward North Village. Caitlin bore right, onto Shore Road, at once turning into a driveway. Though there was a garage around the side, she parked in front and sat staring at the ranch style house.


    - Tammy

  32. Tammy, I like it. You can NEVER go wrong with the 'unexpected collision' technique. :)

    Seriously. I felt what you wanted me to feel. Good job.

  33. Thanks, Janet! I'll have to see if anyone else has posted on hooks and openings. :)

    Thanks to all who've contributed your excerpts! Nice job.


  34. Hi Anita Mae, great to have you here!

    Shirley Jump and I are critique partners and she's taught me plenty. My problem--I can know what to do, but can forget to do it. Frustrating.

    Only six months until Courting the Doctor's Daughter hits the shelves.
    The way time flies, it'll be here before we know it!


  35. Mary, your big baby made me glad I'm a grandmother. :-) But you cost me precious time when without thinking, I clicked it off. Why don't I remember to click on Back? I know that answer. I'm a grandmother. Sigh.


  36. Janet, What a great way to SHOW not tell us how to put in the emotion. You did a great job in showing us by examples. It makes a difficult concept easier to understand.

    Courting Miss Adelaide was loaded with emotion. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Wonderful post! Okay....I'm feeling abit brave :-)

    From The Inheritances

    Rebecca let him lead her up the snow-covered bank until they stood in a clearing looking out to where heaven and earth met in a glorious profusion of rock and sky. Clouds surrounded mountain peaks like halos. A rainbow shimmered in the sky, brilliant colors against a backdrop of aqua so breathtaking they were literally gasping for air.

    “It’s so beautiful,” she breathed. Ray slid his arms around her waist, and she leaned against his chest. He rested his chin on her head, and they stood in silence gazing at the raw beauty of creation until the damp chill permeated their clothes.

    Running his hands down her arms in a warming caress, Ray took Rebecca’s hands in his then turned her to face him. She could see his heart in his eyes as he quoted Scripture. “The earth declares the glory of the Lord, the heavens proclaim His handiwork. That might not be an exact quote, but close enough. It is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

    Rebecca’s heart fluttered at the charming, boyish grin he bestowed on her. She knew he’d spoken more than mere words; he’d spoken his heart. Tears filled her eyes and clogged her throat when she thought about what the future might hold. Standing on the threshold of that great unknown, she had never been more acutely aware of anything than she was of this moment, this man.

    He was looking at her intently. His thumbs caressed the back of her hands, chasing the chill from her blood. Lethargic warmth stole over her. As though in a fog she watched him lift her hands to his mouth and press his lips to her palm in a caress so tender it sent shivers down her spine.

    She lowered her gaze, and he lifted her chin with his finger and waited until she looked at him again. “I want to kiss you, Becca, here in the midst of Paradise,” he whispered, his lips covering hers with devastating tenderness.

    Rebecca heard his primitive grunt of satisfaction when he let go of her hands and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer. An answering purr escaped her as tiny pinpoints of pleasure bathed her senses with light and color. Never in her life had she felt so alive, so consumed with sensations.

    Whether a moment or an eternity, she had no idea how long they stood there, his mouth in sweet possession of hers. All she knew was that when the kiss was over she was plastered against his hard body, her breathing was sharp almost painful and her fists were clenched in his thick, sandy-colored hair. Appalled at her wanton response and the needy way in which she clung, Rebecca flung away with a startled cry of distress, and began to run.

  38. Hi Janet -

    Thanks for sharing your secrets for adding emotion to our writing. This would make a great workshop at a writers' conference.

    Susan :)

  39. Tammy, Thanks for sharing! I love Caitlin's fiesty spirit, the h/h head-on collison, and the detail of the grease. I can see Sean trying to swipe it off with even a dirtier rag. :-) A brief memory of Caitlin as a little girl riding in front of her grampa on the tractor could tug even harder on the heart strings. Just a thought.


  40. Tammy, you're on a roll! Your description of the area where Caitlin grew up is touching. Great job. To add even more emotion, maybe add a physical reaction before the word Home.


  41. Pamela, you've got lovely detail, strong physical reactions and sexual tension. Great job!

    I'm so impressed with the excerpts today. Thanks so much for sharing.


  42. Hi Susan. Doing a workshop is a lovely thought, but I'm not ready. There's so much to learn.

    Thanks for stopping.

  43. Sandra, thanks for saying Courting Miss Adelaide was loaded with emotion. That triggered a thought I want to emphasize.

    Details, dialogue, introspection, physical reactions, setting, symbols and actions are excellent ways to add emotion, but for our books to sing, we must make our characters bigger than life as we put them through the wringer and bring them forth victorious. We do that by giving them difficult goals that stretch them, make them struggle and change. In other words make them earn their happy ending. Your readers will thank you for it. :-)


  44. Such a great post, Janet! Thanks for all that wonderful info! I'm doing revisions. I'm going to go through my WIP with these tips in mind and make sure I've used as many of them as I can. :-)

  45. Great post Janet. It's getting so I am printing out all this good stuff and keeping it in a file. :)

    And hey Carla glad to see your friendly face.

  46. Hi Janet:

    Talk about great minds…(LOL) I was so impressed with “Courting Miss Adelaide,” which I read over the weekend, I just posted a 2000 word review on my blog explaining how your exceptional use of emotions gave me the inspiration to solve a writing problem I’ve been working on for a few years.

    Then I came over to check the Seekers tonight and what do you know? You have the guest blog. I wrote my review without reading your guest blog – but now I think some of my comments were very insightful indeed. Even to the quote I selected.

    I know many authors do not like to read reviews but some of the other bloggers here might want to read my observations on your book. My blog is on eHarlequin. My name there is VincePlato.

    I must say this: when it comes to writing to the “reading experience,” you “get it”. I can’t wait for your next book!



  47. Hi Carla! Great to see you. Hope the revisions go well! Is this for your second sale to Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical?


  48. Vince, I just returned from reading your review of Courting Miss Adelaide at eharlequin. This is the weird part--I found your review quite by accident, then came out to check my Seekerville post and here you are. :-) My heart is still pounding from reading your lovely praise of my book. Thank you for every word.

    Blessings, Janet

  49. I'm just getting to this post this morning. It's great! I'm reading your book right now. This insight behind it definitely adds to it.

  50. Oh, I always miss the best ones! I couldn't make it yesterday, but I wanted to say that you did a great job with showing emotion in Courting Miss Adelaide.

  51. Hi Walt,

    You're never too late to visit a post in Seekerville. Hope you enjoy Courting Miss Adelaide!


  52. Glad you made it, Melanie. Thanks for your kind words!


  53. Hi Janet:

    You are so gracious you are a wonderful example of how to be a guest blogger.

    Also, I loved the cover of “Courting Miss Adelaide” – the woman, the hat, and her expression was just right for the heroine’s personality. I think your cover may be the best this year in representing the true nature of the book. After reading the book, I looked at a big enlargement of the cover on my computer and thought, “I know you. I really know you.” Miss Adelaide is a heroine a man could really love and respect. That’s the thing about strong emotions: the characters become real and remain with you.



  54. This was a great post. Sorry I'm so late commenting. I was camping with no Internet access.

    FYI: Stories with a strong core of emotion is very important to the editors at Steeple Hill. Just thought I'd throw that out there for anyone targeting them.

    Janet's post can really benefit those of you wishing to deepen emotion.

    Janet you are a gifted teacher.


  55. Janet, what a wonderful and timely post. Thank you for taking the time to create it for us. Another Seekerville article to print out for future perusal. Such a gift.


  56. Shirley's book sounds wonderful and I'd love to read it. Courting Miss Adelaide sounds great also and I love the cover art.

  57. Hi Vince, I'm not a guest in Seekerville. I have that nifty little cottage at the end of the street with the green shutters and flagstone path.

    Thanks for your comments on the CMA's cover. I've been told the cover and title made readers pick up the book. That's the goal, but the best part--Adelaide had her moment to shine.


  58. Cheryl, thanks, kiddo! You're sweet to stop by after your camping trip. No bees or mosquitoes this time of year. :-)


  59. Hi Conni, I love talking writing. Hope the post helps.


  60. Hi Roblyn, I'll draw a name for Shirley's book and contact the winner.

    Glad you like Courting Miss Adelaide's cover.


  61. Janet, you and Shirley are quite the pair when it comes to handouts! Thanks for all the great help!

    Now I'm positively dying to read Miss Adelaide! The funny thing is that I had bought a copy, then won a copy from Shirley (dear that she is!) so I turned around and gave away the copy I had, but hadn't read yet. So I'm still waiting to read it! I cannot wait!!

  62. Janet,
    Wow! Just your examples made my eyes well up. The part about how she hugged herself just to be touched. Oh, I felt the ache in my heart. Now I definitely want to read your books. In fact, I think I'll order them right now. In my writing I like my plots, conflict, dialouge, discriptions, but now I can see I have a ways to go with creating truly gripping emotion. Thank you so much for this blog. I am printing it.

    By the way, I just joined shoutlife yesterday and saw that you joined today. Someone there had something about seekerville on their page and that is how I found you. I'm glad I did.


  63. Janelle, we're glad you found us! :)

    You're going to LOVE Janet's book!


  64. Hi Janet:

    Sorry about that. I knew you were “permanent party” I was just referring to you as hosting the feature blog that day. I admired your comments so much because you reminded me of a very good teacher who always tries to leave every questioner with a little higher self esteem. I really learned a lot reading your post and your comments.