Emotional Writing: Making Your Reader Cry (or Laugh, or Smile, or Frown, or Cringe)

My Killer Education

For years my writing has suffered from my education. It started in High School. Teachers in High School aren't interested in good writing, they're interested in formulaic writing.

Start with a thesis in the first paragraph of your introduction. Body paragraph one. Body paragraph two. Restate thesis in the conclusion.

Essentially, they want you to write so that any idiot can understand it but no one will ever want to read it. Even in high school I knew that there was better writing out there.

Then I went to college and majored in writing. I was drowned in lectures about journalistic objectivity and balancing points of view. My teacher was an editor at City's local paper.

I should have known by reading the paper what kind of writing I was learning. No one reads the newspaper anymore. They're boring.

But my education taught me all the fundamentals of "good writing."

Emotional writing is good writing

What I learned was that writing is all about communication. What I didn't learn until I actually started writing for an audience is that the first step to good communication is connecting.

In order to connect with your audience you need to evoke some kind of emotion. That can be happiness, sadness, envy, humor, or... well, anything really. Give your audience an excuse to keep reading.

The reason that formally trained writers often leave emotion out of their writing is because emotions are subjective. What one person finds humorous, another will find sad. What one person finds entertaining, another will find disgusting.

As an objective writer you can't take sides. Of course, I haven't found a good use for objective writing.

Don't be a Wimp

To be a good communicator, you're actually going to have to pick a side. Did you think it was humorous or sad. Was it entertaining or disgusting?

Journalistic objectivity is a myth. I don't believe in it anymore. Everyone has a perspective. It comes through in one way or another. It could be through the facts that they choose to include or exclude or (and in my opinion the more honest method) they could just tell you.

While some journalist pride themselves on objectivity, the award-winning articles are almost never really objective. They aren't wimpy. They pick a side.

Think about it. What award winning story doesn't clearly pick a side. If you read about a genocide, you don't read balancing quotes from those killing the innocent people. No one makes a case for why it's OK to slaughter men women and children.

If you read about corrupt businessmen on Wall Street, their quotes are always portrayed as mean spirited.

If you're going to write well, you have to have guts and say what you think.

Recreate Your Emotions

When you start writing ask yourself how you feel about the subject then don't hide from that reaction. What made you feel that way? What image evoked that emotion? How can you recreate that image with words?

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