The Illusion of Emotion in Writing

 Humans feel things differently and read things differently

an old fashioned typewriter
Write it out

“This is such a moving book” or “I cried when I read this” or “I laughed myself silly.” A good book will elicit some sort of emotion from you.  Even a non-fiction book has the power to make a reader learn and enjoy.  The best authors play with readers’ emotions, but many of the writers I speak to comment they are passionate about the process of writing a book, but not about how it makes a reader feel.  For them the writing is about producing something that resonates with their readers and makes them feel valued as a writer.

writing is a visual illusionHowever, it is all an illusion.

What I find great as a reader might not be the same for someone else.  What I find to be an emotional scene could be boring for someone else.  Most of my friends will say I spend too much of my time either writing or reading, but I am a person who likes a known quantity.  I don’t like going into things not knowing. So when someone tells me that “they loved this book so much” I’m understandably skeptical.

As much as I like telling it like it is, I’ve also learned the value of trying to logically figure out someone’s emotions.  It’s made me a better writer.  I am less likely to think my writing is good unless I’ve had someone look it over, and I’m now less likely to panic when it comes to working with others on a blog.  Blogging is a full time occupation and one which requires a lot of passion.

It’s not about becoming a writer, but becoming a better writer.  It’s about seeing what sort of emotion you can put into a book without losing yourself as a writer.  It’s about taking a risk and learning what can make your “oh well that’s nice” ending into a “I’ve got to tell you about this book and this ending.”  It’s time to break the illusion of you being emotional and getting your readers to feel the emotions you are attempting to convey to them.  It’s a bit of a balancing act, but with help, and a lot of courage you can do this.

being braveIt’s because I’ve found a balance, I can understand emotions are simply how each person looks at them.  It’s why many people want to have shades of grey in their lives, they don’t want to define something as their own.  Commitment to becoming a better person is the first step to becoming a writer.  Commitment also means not giving up at the first sign of failure, and I have had a lot of failure both as a person and a writer.  However, if you as a writer were to tell me you cried buckets writing this scene or another, I

am going to worry you’re under some sort of emotional illusion it’s about a sense of style and understanding how your writing fits into this- a great book I found about this was The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.  It’s the same sort of concept of being a person who you want to read, and have a certain style to it as well. If you don’t have a style, or an understanding of emotions in writing- you might be trying to draw me in by saying this- I cried buckets, but unless I read it and have my own judgement on it, I’m more of a skeptic than a believer.  Logic has a lot to do with emotions, and the best writers understand this concept.

Emotions, by their very nature are hard to define.  What makes me ‘love’ something is different than someone else.  What makes me ‘angry’ is equally as different.  It’s about how we’ve lead our lives. Good writers understand this concept, and build several different relationships with their readers, they aren’t under illusions that everyone will like their books, and they’ve probably been stripped of many of their own along the journey.

living a life of writing

It’s similar to life, I am a believer in knowing what is happening to the point that I can see a clear picture of what or when things happen.  One of my friends simply informs people he has done things about 20 minutes before, and he had a good time- and will ask a number of people did you not get his text?- the two of us compliment each other, he knows I like to plan things months in advance, to avoid the nervous breakdown I will have if I don’t and I know he’s a spur of the moment type of guy.

Over the years, we’ve come to the understanding of balance, I attempt not to get overly emotional that I’ve only had a week to plan something, and he attempts to warn me a few extra days in advance in difference to my feelings.  It’s about understanding that even though we have very similar tastes we are two very different creatures emotionally.  It is much the same with one of my newer friends, who is equally as smart and well read, is very confident- we simply look at things through a different emotional lens.

Because of this relationship dynamic between us, it’s made me a better writer.  It’s helped me become less logical and more emotional, but it’s allowed us both to understand there is a host of ways we can work with emotions as a writer.  With this understanding, I’ve come to accept I’m not perfect as a writer, but I am willing to work with the illusion of emotion to create a better book.


  • Amy

    nice touch on the title with illusions of emotions- we can't all be robots, but creating something lasting works on the understanding of the human mind.

  • Rebecca A Emrich

    writing is all about relationships- I might be at one end of the world, but I can touch lives on the other with writing on a blog. It's amazing, but it's still a bit of an illusion since I am not there.