Earn The Story


The other day, I was watching a movie, and all I could think was the story didn’t earn emotions on the screen. It felt forced. I saw them setting up the blocks, predicted what would happen next, and felt rather disappointed when it did. Every genre has a general formula that if follows. You can’t have a mystery without a red herring or a contemporary romance without a hero/heroine. Regardless, readers and viewers expect some deviation. Writers can’t rely solely on tropes to set the mood throughout a story.

Emotional levels vary. When a character shoots straight from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, skipping all the steps in between, it may feel forced. For example, a character is cheerful one moment and the next instant angered. There are a number of phases in between. Until readers get to know a character’s personality, motivation, goals, etc. this sudden shift may feel jarring and fake.

There are a number of ways to move from one emotion to the other:

cheerful + overwhelmed + isolated + frustrated = angered

cheerful + embarrassed + confused = angered

cheerful + surprised + discouraged + inferior = angered

Once the reader is firmly grounded in the story and character, they’ll understand which emotional change a character is undergoing and it will feel logical and earned.

How about you? What tips do you have for earning a story? Do you have any examples of a story/movie that earns the story?

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6 comments on “Earn The Story

  1. Honestly, if you don’t feel it as an author, the reader isn’t going to feel that emotion either. My only advice, get into that emotion, kind of like method acting. It can be a bit of an emotional rollar coaster, but it’s worth it. A book that deserves an emotional Oscar for me is Room of Marvels by James Bryan Smith

  2. Agree.

    One movie that came to mind was The Notebook. The emotions/actions of the actors playing the couple when they were young (esp. the heroine) were all over the map, and the details weren’t made clear enough in many scenes to know where all that emotion was coming from.

    Great post! 🙂

  3. I love the formulas. 😀 Well done!

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