Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cry, sweat, tremble, bleed

After all our toil and struggle to write our memoirs, how do we get people to read them?

We “Make ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait,” in the words of Wilkie Collins.

Speakers and writers follow that advice for obvious reasons: it keeps audiences engaged.

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at how to ‘make ‘em laugh
so now how do we make ‘em cry?

If you’ve tried writing your emotion, you know that can be a tough challenge, but in Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorbach suggests we employ method writing, a spin-off of method acting.

Here’s how method acting works: Before the curtain rises, the actor remembers a time in which he experienced the emotion he needs to act out. He spends time reliving that emotion so that when he steps on stage, he’s all wrapped up in that emotion and succeeds in playing his part.

Method writing, then, requires you to step out of the present and into the past. If you’re writing about a tragic event, take time (make time) to remember the event and relive it so you can rediscover the emotions you felt.

Avoid over-the-top hysteria, but be honest in admitting your emotions.

In the midst of reliving that situation and emotion, ask yourself:

  • What was at stake? What did I have to lose or gain?
  •  What dreams would never come true?
  •  At the time, how did I envision that my life would never be the same?
  •  Where would I find courage to live another day?
  •  What were my fears, my hopes, my prayers?

When you are caught up again in that emotion, get it onto paper or computer screen.

Your “emotion should be so realistic and gripping that the reader can’t help but feel it too.…” (Becca Puglisi; emphasis mine)

To paraphrase Larry Brooks,
make your readers
happy they are not there,
yet grateful
to feel what it was like to be you.

Emotion: That’s how you make a way for readers to join you in your story, to make them care, to make them want to keep reading.

“Our best stories evoke an emotional response,
touch a deep cord,
and motivate action and change.”
 (Peter Guber; emphasis mine)

OK, are you ready? Go make ‘em cry!

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