“So remember, it’s not that the parking lot is lonely. It’s that it’s empty, and there’s one seagull picking at an abandoned bag of cold French Fries next to an old Escort with a dent in the door and a dirty, crumpled battle of the bands poster.” ~Maggie Stiefvater
I just finished reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a review. No spoilers here.) And can I just say something? I absolutely adore her writing. It’s beautiful and relatable and if I don’t stop talking about it like this now, this will turn into a fangirl post and a very incoherent review.
If you take away anything from this post, let it be this: I want to write like Maggie Stiefvater.
Actually, I hope you take away much more than that.
Well… I want to write like myself, but like Ms. Stiefvater, also. I want to to use words to make you laugh and make you cry and make you angry. I want to you to read my metaphors and say, “Huh. It really is just like that.” I want to use what my POV notices to tell you what she’s like and how she feels. I want you to love these characters or love to hate them. I want power over your emotions.
How does one get power over reader emotions? Hmm…
After a Google search to find the source of the Maggie-quote at the beginning of the post (which I originally found on Pinterest), I came across a blog post from 2011.
It comes close to explaining how Maggie does her magic. Part of it is that the most important thing to her is character development and emotion manipulation. She is willing to sacrifice anything to have control over the readers’ emotions.
So. If I were going to try to manipulate reader emotions…
I’d start with outlining the story’s scenes on index cards then deciding how I want the reader to feel for each scene and make a note of it. This would most likely be after the first draft is complete, at least for now, because I have not yet made a habit of being entirely, perfectly deliberate the first time something gets written. And you need to be deliberate when working with this. So, working on emotions would happen during the edits.
And then, I would figure out how to make the readers feel how I want them to feel.
But that last step is much more complex than it sounds. A lot of things go into it. Like the characters. Do you want the readers to feel the same way as the characters? And how do you show certain emotions in a certain POV? Also, is this an emotion you have to work toward and you need to build up it?
Character and character development go hand in hand with this. How do you show that this character is upset? And how do you make the reader feel sympathetic or annoyed or angry… any emotion you want?
Better yet, how do you keep that fact you are manipulating emotions a secret? Because like Maggie said, to do it right, you have to be sneaky.
Ask yourself these questions. Ask yourself how. How do you use the words to make readers feel?
Figure out how the greats did it. (“Greats” is subjective.) Remember that one scene from that one book you absolutely loved, when the author made your jaw hit the floor or when he or she made you tear up or made you want to throw the book across the room because you were so angry with the MC (in a good way)? Study it. What did they do to make you feel that way? Practice. Try to imitate. Isn’t that one way we learn, through imitation?
Try to figure out your own way. That’s ultimately the purpose of this, anyway, isn’t it? You figure out how to write awesomeness in your own style, letting your own star shine instead of trying to be like the sun.
And then, we you’ve done what you can, get a reader and ask them to tell you their reaction.
Scary step, I know, but that’s how you know if you pulled it off or not. Seriously.
So, that’s my take on this. Seriously, go read that blog post I linked to. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.
Postscript: Okay, so there’s no real magic to doing this. There is lots of work. Your job is to take that work and make it look like magic. Good luck to you all.