In case you aren’t au fait with martial arts classic, ‘Enter The Dragon’ (above) Bruce Lee is explaining to his student the need for ‘Emotional Content’. The acting may be a little hammy and Bruce Lee films may seem like an odd place to go for writing advice, but bear with me.
Good writing – like any artistic endeavour – is all about emotional content. The results are directly related to how much of yourself you invest in your plot, characters and setting.
It has to be about something . . .
Consider, for a moment, your favourite piece of music or a song that you love. What is it about them that makes them resonate with you? It may not always be immediately apparent what a particular piece of music is about, but in order for it to move the listener, you have to get the feeling that it’s at least about something. Shallow teeny-bop songs come and go – music-by-numbers created by marketing executives disguised as songwriters. But classics – pieces of music that have survived for decades and beyond – tend to share similar traits. They all have powerful themes, heartfelt vocals or instrumentation and aspirations to deeply move the listener.
Once more, with feeling . . .
This is a lesson we can apply to our writing. It doesn’t matter whether you write Sci-fi, Horror, Satire or Suspense – the reader needs to get a sense of reality about what your characters are experiencing. The only way to achieve this is to really spend the time and effort to empathise with their plight, to understand their emotional baggage and to bring this out in your writing. You need to mine your own emotional experiences as well as your imagination. This will ensure that your stories stay with the reader for much longer than a few minutes after they have reached the end.
So, as Bruce himself said – ‘Emotional content! Don’t think – FEEL!’
If you don’t care about your characters, why should anyone else?
What does ’emotional content’ mean to you? What moves you when reading a novel?
And, courtesy of Youtube, here is the clip that inspired my post.
This was my 5th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. Tomorrow’s post – F is for Films. How thinking cinematically can improve your writing.