Yesterday we set out to define and identify writer’s voice. Today we continue on with our week long lessons about voice and how to harness it’s powers to make our readers love us (or at least our books).
I am sure you have all seen that meme or image with the sentence explanation on it. The one that says “This sentence is five words. This is also five words…”
The idea behind this message is that you can use the beat of your sentences to help tell the story. That is what we will practice today.
When it comes to the voice, your pattern and story beat are critical. Think about movies and TV shows. When the good guy is hanging from a cliff and the fingers are slipping what do we hear? That’s right! We hear intense music, maybe a low beat doom and gloom sound effects and music.
Likewise, when the good guy swoops in to save the day and fight off the evil, there is upbeat music, fast paced when there is fighting, slower and somber when someone is dying. But do you know why?
Because the music tells us, subconsciously, how to feel. If we saw a dude hanging from a cliff in real life, we would panic a bit (I am sure, not tested personally). But in a movie theater we can separate ourselves from that moment. It isn’t happening to us or someone we know.
So the music and lighting and all these other little non-noticeable effects are added to trigger responses. They play with our emotions, Smokey!
The fun fact is, though, that books do it, too.
Let’s take a look at today’s prompt and we will then learn how to harness these emotional triggers.
Write a scene where a woman is being chased. Who or what is chasing her is unknown. Then, rewrite the same scene using emotional triggers.
Now, before you continue reading here, if you are unsure what I mean by these emotional triggers, that is fine! But write the first scene before you continue on.
When you have finished writing the chase scene, then come back here and continue reading about writer’s voice and my explanation of these triggers. Once you understand what the triggers are and how they work, then go back and rewrite your scene.
Using Writer’s Voice to Trigger Emotions
Writing in such a way that you are conscious about your readers emotions is a powerful ally. Your readers won’t even recognize it when it is done correctly (and rarely even when it isn’t).
Panic and fear are among the easiest to write into your book, so we will start there.
What you may not know is that when you read a story, you begin to pace yourself. Your breathing matches the cadence of the book, your heart rate links to your brain and when the story is written well, you don’t even realize you are reading anymore.
Maybe you are aware of this. Have you ever read a book and when you stopped you look up and several hours have passed, or you don’t even remember turning the pages?
Now imagine that along with that control, I (as the writer) can alter your breathing, I can make your heart race and even begin to sweat. How incredible would that be? Do you wonder why some books are just so damn good while others are more “meh, it’s alright?”
It is because the good books have taken a hold of your emotions and pulled you through the story with your heart strings. But how?
That’s the Million Dollar Question
If you want to heighten the experience, you can’t add threatening background music. What you can do, though, is alter the cadence of your writing.
If you have written your book well to this point and you have a scene that you want to make the reader feel panic or worry or fear, then you simply alter your voice.
Instead of long flowing sentences and paragraphs and lots of dialogue, you simply shorten everything. You want short sentences. Use small words. Less description. No talking. More continuous flow. Less breaks between paragraphs.
If you have been writing in 5 to 12 words sentences, for example, you have established this nice, soothing beat that the reader is going along with. Dialogue creates mental breaks, there is extra spacing, more white space on the page between sentences and words. Everything is calm and cool.
But when you change it. Use two or three word sentences. Remove dialogue. Speed things up. Remove the white space and everyone in the book stops talking, well then, a few things happen.
Most notably, your reader begins to read faster. That sudden jolt to their beat or pattern is interrupted. Their subconscious knows something is different, wrong, but not sure yet what. They begin to panic a bit, even when they don’t realize it.
Their heat rate increases, their breathing is shorter and more blood flows to their brain. If you add into that the fact you have spent a great deal of time beforehand making them involved, getting them invested in the character, well then, you have them hook, line and sinker.
Now that you know. Go back and rewrite your scene. Make the chase more real. Think about your reader and what you want them to feel. How can you accomplish this? Change your voice. Stir up a panic inside their head.
When you are done, come back and post up in the comments and let me know what you think. Did it work for you?