The Catcher in the “Eye” – What makes a reader stop and think about a piece of writing

When was the last time, you read a story that became real to you?

When was it that you felt inspired, or went into a thoughtful silence .Take a moment, close your eyes and try to recall. Got any?

What is it that made you remember this story? What made it so captivating, that this one stood out among so many others that you might have read.

They say poetry is when an emotion finds a thought, and a thought finds words. They say words can make you smile and bring tears. They make us love and they make us hate. There are words that break your heart, and words that heal it. Words evoke so many emotions. Emotions that bring memories, and hopes of the future. And that perhaps is what writing is about. Not only about the words we use, but the emotions they evoke.

They say good stories and storytelling lasts forever. And all good stories that have stood the test of time revolve around making people feel something, conjure real emotions. Great stories take readers on a journey, that makes them laugh, cry, angry, uncomfortable, or even pensive. It’s when they stop and think about the same events in their lives, however trivial it may be. Like watching the sunrise from behind the hills, or hearing your child speak those first words. Like finally passing the driving test, or getting that dream job.

What exactly is it that evokes these emotions within us, or any reader. From what I’ve read, and heard, this is what I know:

1. Perhaps, the most important factor is having protagonists the reader can identify with, or their stories we can relate to, or be emotionally involved with. The guy next door who orders in a pizza, or the girl who lost her parents in a car crash. The self-made millionaire or the new girl in the city with dreams of making it big! The estranged mother-son relationship and unconditional love of a pet. Stories of everyday struggles and decisions, of not finding a cab to work or having that perfect coffee, after a long day!

2. When words create a visual impact, of being so descriptive and detailed, that the reader can imagine the scene being written about. Like the dark rooms and open fields, the eerie silences vs. a busy street, the muted browns and the lush greens, the little black dress and the rugged denims and sneakers.

3. When multiple senses are invoked at the same time. The perfect combination of words used to describe the sights and the sounds, the smells and the tastes, the said, the unsaid and the felt. Like the slumped shoulders or a confident gait, the blinked back tears or a cackling laughter, the lazy drawls or a husky baritone, the aroma of coffee and damp muskiness, the gut wrenches and trembling hands, the cacophony of voices in the head and the pacing heartbeats, the world going around and coming to a standstill.

4. Strong vocabulary always helps. The use of more “power” words, and a combination of mental, physical and internal responses to an emotional cue, and their transition. Slowing it down gives the reader time to let it sink in, without rushing. The smoother the progression, the more is the probability of striking a chord. Like the transition through shock, disbelief, denial and acceptance and the struggles of the protagonist in coping up with each one of these stages.

5. A stimulus. The bigger or more unexpected the stimulus is, the stronger is the emotional response to it. Powerful, brief, Impactful. That one moment, or one word changes everything. Like Snape’s death and the unexpected revelation. 6. And lastly, avoiding overdoing emotional responses. Excessively used, they kill the character and appear clichéd, making them sound weak, immature and incapable. To create something like this, it’s important for a writer to feel that emotion, as its only when you feel it that you would be able to put it into words to express. It’s important to be emotionally involved with your characters, empathise or sympathise with them, and that is what would differentiate an event from a story.

Go ahead, bare that soul, as it’s only when you do so, that the real emotions would express themselves!

About the author:

Rubina Aman – Fauji Brat. HR Manager by day. In love with reading, urdu language, travelling, sufi music and sunsets!

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