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How To Write An Emotional Story

When trying to write an emotional story, many writers make the mistake of objectively trying to evoke an emotion in their audience.  

Whilst this seems like the obvious approach to take, it often results in clichéd scenes that have been seen over and over again through decades of modern cinema.

The true essence lies in forging a profound connection with your audience.

In this article, I delve into the key aspects of crafting a story that will resonate with your reader on a deeper emotional level.

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Tap into Your Own Emotional Truth

Creating an emotional connection starts with authenticity.

Dive into your own emotional reservoir and draw from your personal experiences. Identify moments of vulnerability, introspection, joy, and pain.

By infusing your characters with genuine emotions rooted in your own truths, you will lay the groundwork for a narrative that feels inherently human.

By nature, this should be a difficult process, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable whilst you’re doing it, then you’re doing it right. 

Mobilise Defence Mechanisms

Characters, like real people, employ defence mechanisms to shield themselves from emotional turmoil.

Crafting these defence mechanisms in your script can help to create an emotional story as it ensures that your characters aren’t being truthful to each other. 

Whether it’s humour, avoidance, or aggression, these mechanisms unveil the raw, unfiltered responses that make characters authentically human.

In other words, their facade is at play, which makes writing subtext easier and promises the growth of interpersonal conflict once these defence mechanisms are stripped away. 

Delve into the past experiences that shape your characters’ present behaviours. Even if this information isn’t revealed in your story, it can help to establish their fears.

By addressing unresolved issues and facing personal demons, characters undergo transformative arcs that resonate with the audience on a visceral level.

Again, think about people in your own life and consider how they protect themselves with their own defence mechanisms. Use this as inspiration for your own characters and conflicts within your story. 


Understand Biological Responses To Trauma and Shock

Human emotions are fundamentally intertwined with biological responses.

Consider the more nuanced physiological reactions characters undergo in various situations — from heartbreak to triumph.

By understanding the intricacies of emotional responses, you can authentically convey the physical and psychological impact of pivotal moments in your story.

Dig Deeper into Relationships For An Emotional Story

Relationships are emotional anchors in storytelling. In your writing, be sure to explore the intricacies of human connections — be it familial, romantic, or platonic.

Within these relationships, consider how the characters oppose one another and build a repertoire of all the things they feel about each other but they’d never say.

As your narrative progresses, you may choose to unravel these unspoken truths to craft moments of love, betrayal, loyalty, and sacrifice.

The emotional richness of your story is amplified when characters form profound connections, undergo relational challenges, and evolve through interpersonal experiences.

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Crafting an emotional story demands a willingness to traverse the depths of your own emotional landscape.

Through genuine exploration of human experiences, flaws, and connections, you can create a narrative that not only captivates but leaves a lasting imprint on the hearts of your audience.

Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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