Putting emotion into Fiction

March 11, 2019

A good way to grab readers’ attention is to tap into their emotions.  One way is to include humour in a narrative, even if you do not set out to write a funny story.  I have written two humorous novels under the penname, Jack Lindsey and hope those that read them found them entertaining.

I have also written two thrillers under the pennames of Luke Johnson and Keith Jahans (my real name).  By using these names I could distinguish between my comic writing and these last two novels.  But there was a great temptation to insert a little humour into even these, which I did sparingly as I think, in the instances where I used it, it served to flesh out some of the characters and to relieve tension to give the reader a chance to draw breath.  This device is used by some truly great writers and arguably the greatest writer of all, Shakespeare, used humour in his tragedies (The grave diggers in Hamlet and the porter in Macbeth).

Making a reader cry is the hardest emotion to evoke.  I have experienced this when watching movies directed by expert storytellers.  I was moved to tears by the impending possible death of Spielberg’s character ET who was not and did not even look human and did not in the end die.  But I have rarely experienced this emotion when reading novels.  But perhaps this is just me.

A few of my readers have contacted me to say that they were upset about the death of two characters in my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill.  But I think this may be because they thought that I had wasted further comic potential of characters they had grown to identify with rather than morning their loss.  This was a surprise in what I had planned to be a comedy and not a tragedy.  But I suppose this only serves to show that a writer can forget that comedy often turns out to be tragic.

Keith Jahans

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