6 ways to make your writing pack an emotional punch

I’m reading a book right now that is making me feel things. This, from a writer’s perspective, is an awesome accomplishment. He, the author, has created characters that make me hurt. He has put me in scenarios that scare me, all despite it being based in a fantasy world that couldn’t possibly exist. Even so, it moves me, and carries real world weight for me as a reader. How cool is that?

Pretty flipping cool from the view of a writer, but super inconvenient for me, the reader. I am an emotional sponge. If I am already upset, knowing others are upset (even for completely unrelated reasons) will only intensify my emotions. On the flip side, if I am in a depressive mood, but surrounded by happy people, I will easily perk up. One of the worst situations, though, is when I am in a good mood, then a character’s emotions drag me into depression with them.

I wanted to take a moment and figure out what made this character real to me, and gave him enough emotional weight to drag me down with him:

The character wasn’t built on negativity
Any time I recall a “mary-sue” or “gary-stu” character, I can’t think of a time their character wasn’t enduring some tragic event. There are plenty of compelling stories where real people have lived mostly tragic lives, but the key there is “mostly.” There must be highs to know how low the lows go. If we are always wallowing in the valley, we don’t really know how far down we are. If we start at the top of the mountain, then we can see how far we have fallen and how much there is to lose. This is the key to developing a real character.

The supporting characters are well-developed and matter
This is probably super obvious, but it is worth mentioning. While it is of utmost importance to focus on and develop the main character, don’t let those supporting characters fall to the wayside. Relationships are hella important in both life and in your writing.  Relationships can bring your character down, as well as help build them back up.

How others react to your character can be just as powerful
There is a point in this novel where a supporting character reacted in such a gentle and kind manner to the main character that it made the main character’s emotions much more real to me. So just like you don’t want to have an underdeveloped supporting cast, you also don’t want to forget who is in the room with your character when something is happening. If the main character is in a bar and hears word of his mother passing, how does he react? When he reacts, how do those closest to him react? I don’t even mean how do his friends or relatives react. I mean within reasonable proximity to your character when they get the news. How do they react to the character’s reaction? This can create a wonderful reflection of your character, as well as help intensify that emotion.

There is more than just sadness
I think a lot of writers forget about other emotions. Sadness is so powerful and is very easy to visually represent in writing. However, some of my favorite novels explore many layers of emotion. Anger, jealousy, happiness, etc. All these emotions are powerful. Of course, don’t hesitate to give me some sadness, but that sadness is so much more poignant when we know how the character acts while feeling all the other layers of emotion.

Don’t discount the small stuff
Of course a character’s parents dying is going to be painful for a reader. Of course, the birth of a baby is probably going to be a joyous moment for the reader. These are major, life-altering events that many people can probably empathize with in some way, but you know what else a reader may empathize with? The feeling of finishing a really good book, the feeling after hearing your supposed friend make fun of you, the feeling of stubbing your toe on your bed post, the feeling when a close friend moves away. etc. These small events may not illicit strong emotions, but it creates different levels of emotion for your character. It’s easy to show a baseline, content character, and it is nearly as easy to show a character reach a deep level of any particular emotion. It is just as important, though, to show varying levels of these emotions, so the character is real to the reader.

Life isn’t convenient, don’t make the bad stuff convenient
How many times have you heard of people getting into car wrecks on their way to their last final for the semester? There has been so much build up, so much riding on this, and the person is either super confident or super terrified, but all that changes in an instant when they get into a fender bender on the road. Now they are worried about paying to have their car fixed. Now they must make up the final. Now they must worry about insurance going up. Suddenly, the anxiety from before seems much more insignificant than it did when it was the person’s only focus. That’s how life works. I feel the bad stuff almost always happens when we are already dealing with a lot. It is shocking in real life, and it will be just as shocking on the page, but, again, you don’t have to always focus on the negative. Maybe something wonderful happens during a tragedy. Surprise us!

Just based on what I’ve read so far in this book, these are some of the key elements in making an emotional sponge like me a sloppy mess. What do you think? Let me know, and comment below!

Lissy

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What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 3]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Tomie
Of the Ito-trio, this was the most… meh, for me. It certainly started with the worst art, though by the end, it was just as beautiful as the art in Uzumaki (my fave). The story also follows a pattern, like Uzumaki. Each chapter follows a structure, and almost always ends the same, which made this manga boring and predictable for me. This one also took me the longest to finish, which I blame on the lack of diversity in each chapter’s plot. Speaking of plot, let’s go over how this starts.

Tomie begins at a school where a young, female student (that we never see again past the school portion of the story) tells us that her friend Tomie Kawakami was murdered, chopped into pieces, and scattered about the town. Who could do such a thing? Well, Tomie is quite the looker, though her bully attitude leaves much to be desired. She entertains the affection of a particularly jealous boy but maintains an intimate relationship with her teacher. On a field trip, she confesses to her teacher, to get him to marry her, that she is pregnant with his child. The jealous boy overhears, becomes enraged, and goes after the teacher. The teach, on the other hand, becomes enrage, and pushes Tomie off a rocky precipice.

Believing she is dead, the teacher encourages all the male students to remove their uniforms and help chop her into pieces. They all comply while the girls watch in horror. Much to their surprise, Tomie is still alive, but the teacher has already started, and he won’t stop. Hesitantly, the other boys follow.

Once she is separated into pieces (and the teacher perversely confirms the pregnancy was a lie), everyone takes a piece of her and hides it. With the deed done and the murder unsolved, life goes on… including for Tomie. Soon after she is brutally murdered, she returns to school, acting as if nothing has happened. From there, she guilts her murderers to turn themselves in, kill themselves in various ways, commit themselves to mental hospitals, or encourages them to kill her again in places and situations where they will be caught.

The story starts off as ghostly, revenge narrative, but quickly devolves into something much less interesting. Tomie goes from getting revenge on her killers to just ruining the lives of strangers. Of course, some people deserve the Tomie curse for various reasons, but there are some that are just randomly cursed by Tomie. When Tomie is the reanimated victim, despite her garbage personality, I am still rooting for her. Yas queen, slay your killers (literally). Once she started hurting the lives of strangers, she was more of an annoying catalyst for the various plots.

In a lot of ways, Tomie’s role becomes more figurative. She becomes a representation of various sins, vices, and obsessions. There is a story involving Tomie being dissolved in alcohol. It is quite clear Tomie represents or is the catalyst for alcoholism as the men find themselves unable to keep themselves from drinking the alcohol.

One thing I was happy to see, though, was that the way the original Tomie died made a constant occurrence throughout each story. It was a nice reminder of the ghost-revenge narrative from the beginning, and it really helped tie all the stories together in a morbid way. Men are uncontrollably drawn to Tomie. They become so enamored with her beauty that they, quite literally, want to cut her to pieces, only to find she can regenerate and multiply as a result. I found this super clever since the men were the only ones who took part in tearing her apart. Thankfully, the women aren’t spared either, but are usually tortured because of the men in their lives being tortured.

Overall, Tomie was super fun in the beginning, dragged in the middle, and left me kinda unsatisfied at the end. Still would recommend for any Junji Ito fan, because I can see elements of his other works, but I probably would not recommend this to every horror/body-horror manga fan.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Comment below, and let me know! Want to know what I am reading next? Join the book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/565422-lissywrites-book-club

Lissy

What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 2]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Uzumaki
Of the three Junji Ito special edition titles, Uzumaki is my absolute favorite. No, Uzumaki is not about our fave ninji from the Hidden Lead, but more about what that name means. The word “uzumaki” translates to “spiral.” Yes, this manga is all about spirals, and the various forms a spiral can take.

The story takes place in Kurouzu-cho and mostly follows the characters Kirie and Shuichi – a young high school couple. Shuichi attends a school outside of their town, so Kirie meets him at the train station every day and they walk home together. However, one day, Kirie is on her way to meet Shuichi at the train station when she sees Shuichi’s father staring at the wall in an alleyway. She tries to say hello, but finds he is unresponsive. Not wanting to risk missing Shuichi, Kirie leaves the man and heads to the train station, but not before noticing the thing the man is staring at is a snail shell.

Once she meets up with Shuichi, they start home and Kirie tells him about the run-in she had with his dad. Shuichi isn’t surprised by the odd behavior. He then explains that his dad has been obsessed, haunted, even, by the spiral pattern. Shuichi goes on to say he believes the town is haunted by the spiral. The roads seem to spiral to the middle of town, the town is surrounded by fiddlehead ferns, and seemingly insignificant dust devils randomly sprout up throughout the town. From here begins the pattern, and things quickly spiral out of control (HA! See what I did there?).

The art in this is by far the best out of the GyoUzumaki, and Tomie special edition trio. I think the story is also much stronger than the others, only because it follows a story pattern (a spiral), but the stories aren’t repetitive. Each iteration of the spiral is much more than a pattern and grows in intensity as we explore various elements of the town and meet new citizens. We can mark a distinct growth as the curse of the spiral continues to reveal itself. The spiral is a disease that slowly, but surely, drags the people of Kurouzu-cho into its center.

Even the reader is, ultimately, captured by this spiral. Junji Ito, in his notes at the end, goes into the inspiration for the story and explains how the human eye will naturally follow the pattern of a spiral all the way to its center. Even if we don’t know what we will find at its center, if it even has one. This study of the spiral is really captured in the journey the reader takes with the main characters. As you follow the pattern deeper and deeper in, you know the spiral is going to appear again. You don’t know how it will end, or if it even will. Regardless, Uzumaki is a whirlpool worth getting caught in. Just wait and see what is at its center.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below! Want to see what I am reading next? Join the book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/565422-lissywrites-book-club

Lissy

What I’m Reading: “Gyo,” “Uzumaki,” and “Tomie” by Junji Ito [part 1]

The Junji Ito Special Edition Trio: Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie

Warning: There *might* be spoilers ahead.

Gyo
Of the three, this was my least favorite. Gyo starts with this couple Tadashi and Kaori on vacation. They are staying in Tadashi’s uncle’s beach-side home enjoying the sea and sun. However, it isn’t long before something goes awry. Tadashi goes in for a kiss and Kaori rejects him because she can smell the fish on his breath. Turns out, Kaori has a hella sensitive nose. They have a bit of a squabble and Kaori, determined to go back to Tokyo, leaves the house.

This appears to be the start of a dramatic, romance novel (or manga, rather). Unfortunately for Kaori and Tadashi, this isn’t a Shojo Beat manga. While Kaori is out on the street, having a fit, she catches a whiff of something… something she can only describe as death and decay. The smell is absolutely overwhelming. Where is the smell coming from, you may ask. A fish. A dead, rotten fish on a pair of pointy, robotic insect legs. It attacks anything with a pulse, and so begins the invasion of dead fish on insect legs.

As goofy as it sounds, I thought the concept was super interesting. These insect legs are actually man-made robots that use bodily scents to function. Ito focuses heavily on the scent and frequently refers to it as a death-stench. The process of death gives these creatures life. Death and decay, these processes we associate with the end of life end up creating it.

However, once the process of decay is complete, the mechanical legs have no power source, but, much like any living creature, their survival instinct pushes them to continue. Once the bodies have rotted away to nothing, the legs attach themselves to the nearest living beings, including household pets and humans. Then Ito presents us with the great moral question: what is life? Tadashi watches soldiers mowing down many of these human-robot-hybrids, and he meets a man attempting to create a circus where he tortures these creatures for the amusement of others. It’s all grotesque and horrific, and in some cases the regular humans seem to be much more monstrous than the monsters.

Ultimately, though, I didn’t think the story was all that interesting. Despite how long it is, I feel it could have dwelled longer at some points and on some of the aspects of the world. For example, it is revealed that the decaying creatures may have some sentience. They are humanized for just an instant. An instant, and then it is over. The art was good, and the concept kept me reading, but it felt… superficial. Still, would recommend to any body-horror manga reader.

Thanks so much for reading! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know, and comment below. Wanna see what I am reading next? Join the book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/565422-lissywrites-book-club

Lissy

What I’ve Read: The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

These posts are for book discussion and to express my overly-fangirly nature over certain books and series. Though I already have an extensive library with plenty of reading material, I’m always looking out for new or interesting titles. Not only is this for me, but for other writers! Often times, writers forget they started off as readers. Support your fellow authors and read!

WARNING: SELF-PROMO IS NOT ALLOWED IN THE COMMENTS
It will be considered spam and deleted immediately. However, if you would like me to buy and read your book, I’ll gladly take recommendations on this page. Fill out the contact sheet with a link to your book, and I will get to reading! While I will read most recommendations, I won’t review them all. If the book in question would probably get less than three stars, I’ll simply keep the review to myself, and either email the author directly (if they themselves sent me a contact sheet), or just not discuss the book at all. I want to recommend books that I will read, and that I think others will enjoy. No need to embarrass or completely wreck a book’s reputation in the name of reviewing.

Now, with all of the “rules” and “disclaimers” out of the way, on to the books!

I read the first book of the Ethical Vampire series, The Society of S by Susan Hubbard.

Genre: YA/Paranormal
Rating: 3/5

Let me start out by saying, there is no doubt that Mrs. Hubbard knows her craft. She’s a master at it, but, in saying that, she spends far too much time showing it off and not enough time on showing me what the book is about. To be honest, most of the book could’ve been summed up in about 100-150 pages, but Mrs. Hubbard spread it out to a nice 304.

But, like I said, she is a master at her craft. The gothic descriptions reminded me so much of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, and they had me enthralled from beginning to end, but I also said that drug out the plot. Thankfully, I did eventually figure out what the book was about.

Ariella, nicknamed Ari, is an intelligent thirteen year old, whose days are spent reading about the world she has never experienced and having her fill of a poorly prepared vegetarian diet.  Her mother left her and her father the very day Ari was born, and though she has never met her, Ari feels a strange connection with her mother.  In an attempt at discovering more about herself, her father, and the answer as to why her mother left, Ari finds herself face-to-face with the realization that she’s not quite the human she had always assumed.

She’s a vampire. The series is called the Ethical Vampire series. She’s a vampire. I couldn’t help, but laugh at all the obvious references to her being vampire, but without her blatantly saying so.

Her father’s basement kitchen had a very “gamey” odor to it. She is lucky that she has “strong teeth.” They’re vamps, my darlings! Vamps!

But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question myself at some points. It’s obvious that she’s a vampire, but my paranoia had me wondering if she was actually another creature. It would be my luck that she actually was just a human,  or a werewolf. Thankfully, the paranoia didn’t last long, and I was reassured in my assumption.

The book has plenty of drugs, teen-drinking, and other things young kids do while trying to find out who they are, and I’d be lying if I said that my friends and I didn’t also want to dye our hair black and become pagans, but we certainly didn’t party as much as these kids did at their age. Regardless, when I finally made it to the plot, I felt as hazed and nauseous as the MC. Mrs. Hubbard is fantastic with weaving descriptions and feelings together. It was realistic and interesting. Love, love, loved it.

At this point, the book probably would have gotten a whopping 4/5, but as quickly as I had gotten to the plot, more descriptions were dumped on me. It messed up the wonderful pacing that had been built up, and also left me hanging as far as where the next book was going to go. There was no hint or even indication of a sequel. If I hadn’t already bought the entire series, I might not have even checked for another.

This book teased me, pleased me, confused me, then hurt me, but I loved every second of it, or at least I loved most of it. I would recommend this book in a heart beat.

Purchase Status: Purchased

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

What I’ve Read: Matched by Ally Condie

After some thought and endless back-and-forth with myself, I’ve decided to start a little mini-series of posts, if you will, of some of my favorite books from month to month, always posted at the end of the month in question (or at the very beginning of the next month. I’m lazy, and it will probably happen).

These posts are for book discussion and to express my overly-fangirly nature over certain books and series. Though I already have an extensive library with plenty of reading material, I’m always looking out for new or interesting titles. Not only is this for me, but for other writers! Often times, writers forget they started off as readers. Support your fellow authors and read!

WARNING: SELF-PROMO IS NOT ALLOWED IN THE COMMENTS
It will be considered spam and deleted immediately. However, if you would like me to buy and read your book, I’ll gladly take recommendations on this page. Fill out the contact sheet with a link to your book, and I will get to reading! While I will read most recommendations, I won’t review them all. If the book in question would probably get less than three stars, I’ll simply keep the review to myself, and either email the author directly (if they themselves sent me a contact sheet), or just not discuss the book at all. I want to recommend books that I will read, and that I think others will enjoy. No need to embarrass or completely wreck a book’s reputation in the name of reviewing.

Now, with all of the “rules” and “disclaimers” out of the way, on to the books!
I read the last book of the Matched Series by Ally Condie: Reached. While I only read Reached this month, I will only be doing a review of the first book. Mainly to prevent unnecessary spoilers, while introducing the series to new readers. I will review the others upon request or recommendation.
1st Book in the series: Matched
Rating: 4/5
Genre: YA/Dystopian
Matched is about a futuristic society, appropriately named the Society, which was formed after a vague technological disaster. The MC is Cassia, a teenage girl, Society-molded, and on her way to her Match Banquet, which is the ceremony that puts teenagers together with their soul mate. Though, in my opinion, it’s just a prettier version of a breeding ceremony – moving on!
At the banquet, Cassia is surprised to find that her match is her longtime best friend Xander Carrow. So many cuddly feels at this point, other than my disgusting image of a breeding ceremony *shiver* – moving on!
Cassia is happy and comforted by the fact that she already knows her match and even lives in the same borough (town, basically) as he does, which is rare, as most of the teens going to be matched don’t already know their matches nor do they live near each other. After receiving her match, she is given a microcard, something the Society creates in order for matches to get to know one another before meeting.
Cassia rushes home and pops that puppy in and everything is going hunky-dory-lovey-dovey until another face pops up on the screen. A face that isn’t Xander’s. Somehow she has been matched with two people, and the book has Cassia trying to figure out how and why this happened because the Society and supposedly perfect – the Society doesn’t make mistakes.
I’ll stop there, since most of the information I’ve given can be easily read on the back of the book, and I’m tired of info-dumping. *shrug* Onto the review portion!
This book completely gripped me. The world it built had me floored, and all of the wonderful technology involved was wonderfully crafted. The only reason this book didn’t get a full on 5/5 was because there have been many reviews saying this book is identical to Lois Lowry’s The Giver, I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to. I can’t really judge Matched on that because I have no idea if it is or not. So, just to be safe, I ticked off a star. Still, a great book.
This is your classic love triangle, though, in my opinion, the winner is apparent from the beginning of his introduction. I could just be biased, but I knew she would choose him. Anywho, in all honesty, I probably would’ve given this book a 4/5 anyway just based on the love triangle. I have nothing against them, and they definitely sell books, but I feel like they follow a similar formula every time.
Regardless, I love how Cassia grows from the love triangle. While most love triangles are just for the romance factor, with the MC barely growing as a person, Cassia actually takes the fact that there is a choice to make her more independent. The Society wants everyone to rely on them, obviously because they want control. Well, Cassia wants control, but of her own life. The revelations she goes through are very thought-provoking, at least in my own opinion. It had me turning pages and wanting to read self-help books. Condie needs to write a book called How to Take Control of Your Life by Using Love Triangles: Love is a YA Learning Device. Condie, if you’re reading this, you can find my contact page above. Let’s talk pages.
But the pacing is slow. While the revelations are thought-provoking and beautiful with their metaphors and symbolic meaning, they tend to be dragged on. The plot and pacing suffers for it. The only thing that kept me reading them was because they were well-written and beautiful, so kudos to Mrs. Condie.
All-in-all, it’s your fun run-of-the-mill YA romance book with a fun dystopian twist. Not exactly the quick kind of read, but one I would recommend to buy and add to your collection.
Purchase Status: Purchased
I hope you enjoyed my first review. This is far from perfect and a major experiment, but I hope you still find it interesting. I hope enough people like it enough to keep me writing more. Now, for questions, what did you think of the review? Did you agree, disagree? Any recommendations? Anything you’d like to add? Let me know, and comment below.
Thank you for reading!
-Lissy