When readers are pulled in by emotional intensity, they can’t help but fall in love with our characters and their stories.
Amplifiers also can evoke memory for the reader because of their commonality. At some point, every person has felt a burst of energy that propels him to tackle a task; he has experienced pain that sends a jarring throb through flesh and bone. Universal experiences like these help forge a link between reader and character.
Emotion and tension often go hand in hand. If emotion is low, chances are that story tension is also waning. When emotion is high and it’s written effectively, tension will most likely be on the rise. Tension is important in a story because it increases reader interest. When the hero’s outlook is grim, readers worry over his success. This worry translates into empathy with the character and a desire to keep reading in order to find out what happens.
Applying an amplifier to a secondary character doesn’t always have to immediately result in a catastrophic event. Sometimes, like the tightening of a screw, it simply increases stress for the main character, which leads to poor decision-making.
Often the setting will naturally favor certain amplifier types over others, so choose something organic to the scene and events. Pacing is important, so consider carefully if the amplifier truly adds complication and tension rather than simply providing a delaying tactic to keep the hero from his goal. Add one to the mix and see what new conflict, insecurity, or difficult decision arises because of it.
If you’re a planner, amplifiers can be added during the pre-writing stage. As you plan your story, look for areas where tension or emotions are low. Add an amplifier to ramp up the stress.
Amplifiers can also be utilized during the revision process. When revising, be aware of ho-hum areas where the pacing seems to flag. Listen to critique partners who complain about boring stretches or places where they feel disconnected. Examine these scenes and see if an amplifier might give the story a much-needed jolt in the right direction.
A PRACTICAL NOTE
Each emotion amplifier will provide you with ideas on how different stressors might affect your characters, priming them—and, therefore, the reader—for a more intense emotional experience. These entries list the physical signals, internal sensations, and mental responses associated with each amplifier. Simply decide which stressor to deploy, then browse the selection of cues to help you create a fresh response that fits your character perfectly. Just as characters show emotion uniquely, they should also respond in their own way to the different amplifiers.
Ready to crank up the stress and force a bigger emotional reaction? Let’s see how discomfort and inconvenience can create a more poignant opportunity to show your character’s true feelings. (Pg.8)
DEFINITION: Being at ease; unstressed
An easy smile
Leaning back in a chair
Reclining on a couch or floor
Leaning against a doorjamb or wall
Placing the hands behind the head An open stance
A carefree walk
Putting one’s hands in one’s pockets
Hands that hang loosely at the sides
Feet angling out
Fingers lacing across the belly (if one is lying down)
Hands laying in the lap Legs crossed with one foot languidly bouncing Stretching, rolling the neck
Sprawling on a couch, chair, or bed
Participating in relaxing activities
Listening to soothing music with one’s eyes closed and the head nodding
Easy touches (patting someone’s hand, rubbing their back, giving a light hug, etc.)
Driving under the speed limit
Being unconcerned with external events
Becoming somewhat unobservant
Acting as if one has all the time in the world Falling asleep while watching TV or laying out by the pool
Sleeping deeply and waking up refreshed
Steady, even breathing
An overall feeling of health and well-being
An improved immune system
A deliberate attempt to not be disturbed by external events Indulging in daydreams
Wanting the feeling to go on and on
A lack of urgency
A sense of balance
CUES OF ACUTE OR LONG-TERM RELAXATION
Laziness A refusal to participate in anything strenuous or potentially stressful Selfishness
Foggy thinking Excessive sleeping
A desire to get back to something stimulating or challenging
WRITER’S TIP: In life, relaxation is good, but in a story, it signals a lack of conflict. If your character is relaxed, make sure a catalyst is introduced to ensure he doesn’t stay that way for too long. (Pg.50)
WE&P by: EZorrilla