Manipulatus Emotionus– Magic for Manipulating Readers’ Emotions

“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.

#frozen #gif

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.

My Little Brony - Friendship is Magic - my little pony, friendship is magic, brony - Cheezburger

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.

(GIF) "Fili and Kili ~ So this is what's going on behind the scenes!"  Haha, this is awesome :)
Only you should know what’s going on behind the scenes.

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.


11 thoughts on “Manipulatus Emotionus– Magic for Manipulating Readers’ Emotions

  1. Before I say anything else, I think you just manipulated WordPress. Or at least WordPress for me. YOUR POST IS SHOWING UP EVERYWHERE ON MY FEED, IN PLACE OF ALL THE OTHER POSTS!

    Anyway, great post. Manipulating readers’ emotions is really HARD, eh? Too much of the time when I read I’m just like I DON’T CARE I DON’T CARE! Actually, that’s not true. There are brilliant authors out there, and Maggie Stiefvater is definitely one of them. I’ll be honest, when I first picked up The Raven Boys and read it, I DNFed it. I hardly EVER DNF books, so least to say, I wasn’t a fan. But when I read The Scorpio Races I absolutely loved it. Maybe I should go back and try the Raven Cycle again, and maybe I’ll read it in a different light. We’ll see.

    Alrighty. I guess now I just need to write and write and write a lot, and then it’ll seem like magic… right? 😀

    • Oh dear… that was an accident. Let me contact my minions about that…

      Manipulating reader emotions is fun, even if it is difficult. The payoff is totally worth all the work!

      I need to read The Scorpio Races… the Raven Cycle is amazing, but it’s full of swearing and occasionally really dark psychic stuff. But I otherwise loved it.

      Right! I think that’s how it works… XD

  2. I have the same strange phenomenon as Kiwi described. Hmm.

    Ohh, emotions. My weak point. I’m even worse at emotions than I am at description, and considering most of my stories seem to happen in empty white rooms… well, you get the idea. Heh.

    Even so, good post! I’m saving working on fitting emotions in my current novel until I have my plot sorted out, but this is still something I definitely want to work on editing in.

    Also, I really need to read something of Stiefvater’s… What would you recommend I start off with first?

    • Oh dear… unless it’s happening with every WordPress user all over the internet. X)

      Well, I’ve only read The Raven Boys and the other two in it’s series. I love it, but there is an absolute ton of swearing and occasionally the psychic plot line gets dark. I’ve heard the The Scorpio Races is good. (Actually, I’ve heard that they’re all good, so…) (I think Liam would actually be a better person to ask. Sorry.)

  3. I want to write like Maggie Stiefvater so much. I would do ANYTHING to write like she does. It is my ultimate dream.
    That’s all I got from your post.
    *runs away screaming wildly just because for no reason*

  4. I have never read anything by Maggie Stiefvater, and I am pretty sure I am the only blogger in the bookish blogosphere that has not read anything by her. According to the fabulousness of that quote, I need to fix that. Being sneaky is definitely important to manipulating a reader’s emotions. Now I just have to find a way to be subtle enough because subtlety is very difficult.

    • Subtlety IS difficult. It’s like you want to make the promise of something but you don’t want to be so obvious that they figure it out…
      No, you aren’t the only blogger (though maybe close). 😉

  5. I haven’t read anything by Maggie Stiefvater, but I want to. Nice post. 🙂 I personally think I’d do a lot better with manipulating reader’s emotions if I developed my characters more instead of playing on one aspect of them.

    • Thanks.

      Having fleshed-out characters probably does factor into this. Since the reader has to care about the characters for this to work, it makes sense that realistic or non-flat characters would be important.

Ooh! Are you going to leave a comment? I love comments! And I like replying to them, too!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s