1. huskies

    huskies Member

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    I want to make people cry

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by huskies, Dec 20, 2016.

    I have such a desire to write a piece that evokes that much emotion it makes people sob.

    I have a tip and i feel the emotion but feel it needs more.

    Any tips on how to get the gut wrenching feeling of emotion into words?
     
  2. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    I usually try not to presume to talk for others, but I think that's what we're all looking for. Making someone feel that strongly is pretty much the holy grail/philosophers stone of writing.
     
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  3. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Who are you writing for? 12 year old girl? 30 year old man? Gotta know your audience to pull their heartstrings.
     
  4. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Shenanigan Master Contributor

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    Sneak onions in between the pages. Gets me every time!

    In all seriousness though, I'd caution against going overboard with the emotion. If it gets to be too much, I tend to eyeroll at the author more than feel sorry for characters.
     
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  5. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    I've only ever cried over a couple stories. It's a really, really hard thing to do right. (Admittedly, I had my hearstrings removed during a bypass a couple years ago, so you can't pull at them, but that's aside the point.) Some readers are going to be easier, some are never going to cry, but ultimately the emotion you're going for is the same.

    In my humble opinion, the best way to elicit emotion (any emotion) starts with good characters. It's easier to laugh at a joke when you like the person telling it, it's easier to feel the thrill of adventure when you empathize with the person adventuring, and it's easier to cry when you feel bad about what's happening to the protagonist.

    The problem with genuinely making the reader sad is that, nine times out of ten, we know that the 'Darkest' hour in any book isn't really going to be that sad - We all know, subconsciously or not, that it's the bottom of the second act, and they're about to come around and save the day. This can still work - The second act of Inside Out is a total gut-wrench, after all, but you need to make the audience feel for the characters, and you need to make the stakes feel real. (In the case of Inside Out, we know that Joy is going to save the day, but in the end it doesn't turn out all happy-go-lucky like it was before. Riley ends up a changed person by the end, and while she's more mature and arguably stronger as a result of her hardship, it's not the ending that Joy initially wanted, and it's fairly melancholy overall.)

    The biggest gut-punch in a book that I can think of was in The Dresden Files, book... Crap, I think it was 11. "Changes", whichever one that was. I'm not going to spoil it, but it's a real wrenching moment, and it works because we as the audience have gotten to know the main character incredibly well, and when he ultimately has his entire life dismantled and in order to save the day he has to do a thing that I'm not going to spoil, we really feel it in the same way he does.
     
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  6. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    In my opinion, I think most often a reader will cry when the reader is highly identified with the character or characters and the scene. So, telling stories with and about likeable and relatable characters is the first, necessary, step. Then, presenting a poignant scene using evocative language--just right, not too much, not too little--is the art of writing. There has to be a "set up." It takes us a while to care enough about a character to feel deeply when something happens to him/her on the page.

    I hope that as a writer you wish to evoke a range of emotions in your readers. I do. Sadness is only one color in the rainbow of emotions. A book written only in shades of gray may not garner a very wide audience.
     
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  7. SadStories

    SadStories Active Member

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    Honestly people cry at the most random things so it's really hard to control in a reader. I've cried from romcoms, but laughed at famously sad movies.

    Also it's often seemingly accidental stuff that makes me want to cry. I didn't care much for Inside Out, but there was an ice-skating scene at the beginning of the movie that almost made me cry. I also did not enjoy the sappy ending of Interstellar at all, but almost started crying during the famous docking sequence -- which is an action scene.

    I guess there are some things you can do to increase the chance of tears happening though.

    * Deal with any kind of sad, tragic subject matter like orphans, sudden death, etc.
    * The devil is always in the small details: Seeing someone's favorite food in the store after may be a lot sadder than the scene where you learned they were dead.
    * Put sad stuff in the most climatic moments, like learning something super sad as part of a well-prepared, stunning twist.
    * Make your writing personal as the reader can tell. If it's not emotionally taxing to write, it's probably not very personal.
    * Strive for poetic beauty anywhere you can. We tend to let things with elements of "high art" get under our skin easier.
    * Don't try too hard or overdo it. If the reader notices you are trying to make them cry, they certainly won't.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2016
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    @SadStories
    I have never read something that made me cry.
    Written a few scenes that did though. :p

    All I can tell you is that it needs to be organic
    and not forced. Let the moment carry the weight
    of the words, and the rest should fall into place.

    Either that or stop cutting the hairy end off my
    bloody onion, that's cheating. :p
     
  9. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    I think that's the crux of the matter. How much does the reader identify with the MC? If the reader is so invested in the character that he feels the punchs like the character would - that is ...
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
  10. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    My advice would be don't rush the build up and then don't rush the scene. Keep it subtle, don't try and shove it in the reader's face. I read a book a while ago called The Tea Rose. I cried a few times while reading that book, but the one that really stood out for me was when the MC's mother had died - that wasn't the tear welling moment - it was a little later on, after the MC had broken down, bit by bit and finally the author told us that the MC lay in her bed with her heart breaking - the author had dragged me in so much by that line that my heart broke too. I've cried many times at books but that particular one has really stuck with me and I think it's because it was gradually given to me, it was kinda like when you just can't take anymore - if that makes any sense.

    Anyway, hope that helps in some way. I personally haven't got to a sad part in my book yet but when I do I hope I can do it justice. :oops:
     
  11. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    My advice would be don't rush the build up and then don't rush the scene. Keep it subtle, don't try and shove it in the reader's face. I read a book a while ago called The Tea Rose. I cried a few times while reading that book, but the one that really stood out for me was when the MC's mother had died - that wasn't the tear welling moment - it was a little later on, after the MC had broken down, bit by bit and finally the author told us that the MC lay in her bed with her heart breaking - the author had dragged me in so much by that line that my heart broke too. I've cried many times at books but that particular one has really stuck with me and I think it's because it was gradually given to me, it was kinda like when you just can't take anymore - if that makes any sense.

    Anyway, hope that helps in some way. I personally haven't got to a sad part in my book yet but when I do I hope I can do it justice. :oops:
     
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  12. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    OOPS - not sure how I posted the above twice :eek:
     
  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    It happens to me a lot, don't know why. If you act quickly, you can usually delete the second posting. I always leave a note for the mods that it was a doubled post though.
     
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  14. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Characters don't need to be relate-able. You just need to care. I've been fortunate to make readers cry and they certainly don't relate to the character. You don't even need a long setup. Something beautiful but sad can make people cry within a few sentences. Context does matter though and a lead up is usually the way to go.
     
  15. Tea@3

    Tea@3 Senior Member

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    Context, context, context.

    It's what's on the hook, to be potentially lost (or saved) that moves people.

    Deeper the context, deeper the reaction you'll evoke.


    Tip: begin looking for the meaning behind the meaning.


    Best,

    --T
     
  16. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    There are easier ways to make people cry...

    Have you tried hitting them?
     
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  17. Tea@3

    Tea@3 Senior Member

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    That never works on me. Emptying my bank account, however...
     
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  18. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    Yeah summat weird just happened to me again on another post. Not sure if it's user error though !
     
  19. huskies

    huskies Member

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    Thank you for all the replies. Sorry it took so long to get back to you. My audiance would be YA. there was some really good advice thank you.
     
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  20. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    I too would love to evoke emotional sentiments in readers. I've never read a book that made me cry.. Well as a child the book about a mother and her son made me cry (Love you forever) but as an adult, no book has done that to me. Music has many times though. Perhaps if you put your words in ways the reader can identify with then it gives you that chance. Good luck!
     
  21. ddavidv

    ddavidv Senior Member

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    Getting that strong emotional response is the ultimate reward. Sadly, most of the time you won't know if you were successful with readers as most of them remain anonymous.

    My first novel has several autobiographical things woven into it. One scene in particular was very emotional for me and I did have a brief, cathartic cry as I wrote it (and again reading it some time later). I'd have to say I wrote it with great emotion but had no idea the effectiveness of my words on anyone other than myself. Recently a good friend purchased and read this particular book and insisted upon having a discussion about it during a recent visit. He enjoyed the entire book but the particular scene in question affected him deeply. He told me he could not stop thinking about it and what it meant. And he shed tears over my words (at age 69!). There is little greater reward from writing than hearing this sort of feedback, let me tell you.

    If you write with sincerity and passion you can generate such a response. If you write with only the intent of forcing a reaction you will probably be less successful. If YOU believe--and are a good wordsmith--you will be able to get others to believe.
     
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  22. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Project a deeply-emotional experience of your own into the writing.
     
  23. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    There are a few story issues you can work with. Mainly, though, the emotion has to be genuine. Don't go fishing for it, or that will likely show. Pathos often has the opposite effect. Like those cartoony pictures of sad-eyed dogs that were so popular a while back. Urrf. Avoid the literary equivalent of an Elvis or Jesus painting on black velvet, complete with an eye that's dropping a tear. Arrgh.

    Things that can make me cry in a book:

    Loss. That's big. If a character whom you identify with loses something or somebody who has sustained them through a large portion of the book, that can bring tears. Even more so if the loss is sudden and/or unexpected. You can heighten the effect by having the character try to be stoic about the loss. Stoicism is often a tear-jerker for me. It can be any kind of loss, from death of a loved one to permanent loss of a basic belief or goal or vital skill.

    Reunion. While that's an example of 'happy crying' it can be a very cathartic moment in any story. Again, the unexpectedness can play a part. Think of the difference you would feel if you knew for months that somebody you love, whom you haven't seen for ages, is planning to visit you at long last. Yes, you might well be emotional when you go to the airport to pick them up. However, contrast that with missing a person you love for years—you have lost touch and haven't got a clue where they might be, but you miss them every single day—then the doorbell rings, you go to answer it (expecting the postman) and ...that person is standing on the doorstep smiling at you. OMG. The emotion in that second scenario is a lot stronger, at least for me.

    Relief. If something major bad is happening, things are becoming unbearable for your characters, there is no way they are EVER going to get out of this mess ...and then, somehow they manage it ...the relief can also bring tears. Obviously you don't want tears of laughter because the solution to the problem is unbelievably silly. But rescue or relief from something that is truly bad can be quite emotional.

    Doing the Right Thing. This can bring tears if the action is difficult for the characters, and brings unwelcome consequences as well as a sense that nothing else could be done.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
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  24. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Step 1: Write an interesting, sympathetic character who the audience will grow attached to, but preferably not one who is "too pure for this earth".

    Step 2: KILL THEM!
     
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  25. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    I am now officially ceding the title 'The resident serial killer' to @halisme :D
     

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