If you want your audience to feel for your protagonist, to empathize with her, you must express feelings rather than tell feelings. Here’s what I mean;
This is telling how your character is feeling:
Jenna dreaded her boyfriend’s reaction to her new cancer-riddled appearance.
And this is expressing how your character is feeling:
Jenna’s clammy hands trembled as she raised them to her head. They met smooth, cold skin, like freshly shaved legs. She swallowed, her mouth drier than a desert.
I expressed dread by Jenna’s actions and by showing what was happening to her body. But, to really have your audience emotionally connect, you want to add in a short, intimate interior monologue or thought:
Jenna’s clammy hands trembled as she raised them to her head. They met smooth, cold skin, like freshly shaved legs. She swallowed, her mouth drier than a desert. Chris would finally meet the new Jenna. The dying Jenna.
Telling is writing at your worst. It robs your story and your audience of emotion and imagination. We cannot picture the word “dread,” but we can see trembling hands.
Telling your readers a story is like having them stand outside the gate of your world, only hearing what’s going on inside of it. But showing your readers a story is like inviting them into your world to experience it.
You want your audience to see your story like a movie in their minds. With the ability to imagine the scenes, they will be blessed with a greater emotional connection to your characters and story.
Don’t just seek to captivate minds, but to capture hearts. If you’re able to do both, you’ll always have loyal readers.
What story have you read that had you feeling for the protagonist? Has a novel ever made you cry? Share your question or thoughts in a comment. Happy helping!