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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, June 25 2016
Getting emotionally involved in a book

June Round Robin Blog Hop: How emotionally involved are you in reading or writing some scenes?

As a reader, the answer to this question varies, but the books I found myself the most deeply involved in emotionally are the ones I remember years and years later. To be honest, I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime and remember very few of them. They were fun while I was reading them and most of them left me satisfied, but they don’t stay with me. Ironically, while I don’t recall all of the story, one book that I will never forget was recommended to me by a friend. Set in England I think in the 1600s, the book, Forever Amber left me so disappointed I wanted to throw it at something - probably my friend if she'd been at hand. I so wanted things to work out for the heroine and there was a good man who loved her, but she kept making other choices, bad choices, unfixable choices until he finally left her. Through the whole book, scene after promising scene, I kept rooting for her to see the goodness in this one man who really loved her rather than chasing after something else that was never going to last. Right up to the end, she never learned, and never redeemed herself. I was totally emotionally involved in that even though the HEA never happened for her and I wished I’d never read the book in the first place. But I think that kind of emotional involvement and the author’s ability to make us feel that strongly is what makes a great book.


As a listening reader – now that so many great stories are available on audible, I enjoy them while I listen, but soon forget – perhaps it’s not having seen the written word – I don’t know. But one thing I have to say for audible is that you are there – I mean really THERE. If the hero or heroine is being stalked your hair is standing on end. If two lovers are getting it on, if it’s really well done, you can’t help feeling aroused. When something really sad happens you can’t stop the tears either.  Recently, I was driving to a meeting in Jacksonville, a little over an hour from my home so I always leave plenty of time in case of traffic or other unforeseen holdups. On this trip I was listening to a suspense story  about a covert, super dangerous mission. When I pulled into the library parking lot, I felt like I was in a rush. Like I was running late. I gathered up my stuff and hurried inside only to discover I was early, no need for the rush. I sat down and suddenly felt drained. I had been so emotionally invested in that story I was physically reacting as if it was me that was fighting for my life and desperate to get to safety before it was too late. Good writing and excellent reading on the part of the actor. It took me as long to recover from that adrenalin rush and the following let down as it would have had I experienced the action myself. The entire book was not that edge of the seat, but those scenes surely were.


As a writer, I am mostly always emotionally involved. I don’t write well if I’m not. As Steve Jobs said: "If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you."  This applies to writing, too. If I am emotionally invested and excited about what’s happening to my characters I don’t have to struggle to find the words – the words will race along at a furious place, and I’ll be breathlessly trying to keep up. Often I'll get caught up in activity or family stuff that takes me away from writing for a few days or even a week or more. When I come back, I open my manuscript, stare at the last thing I wrote and even with an outline or comments on post-its about where I’m supposed to go next, I find myself dragging the words out, desperate to get the action going, frustrated by my non-involvement. I always have to go back at least a chapter or more and just read what was happening before the interruption to get myself emotionally back into the story, back to feeling what my characters are feeling and being urged on by their needs and wants. So, for me as a writer, YES, I most definitely have to be emotionally involved in every scene – otherwise the book would never happen. There’s a downside to this kind of involvement though. When you get to the end you feel this incredible letdown. It’s like my BFF just moved to the other side of the planet and I miss my characters dreadfully. They’ve been in my head and heart for weeks, or months, and now they are gone. I wander around the house wondering what to do with myself. There’s always housework, and probably a maintenance project or two I’ve been putting off while chasing after the story, but they don’t have the emotional pull my story did, and I feel a little empty for awhile. And then I start a new book and get excited all over again.


Check out how these authors feel about emotional involvement:

Anne Stenhouse
Marci Baun
Heather Haven
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Rachael Kosinski
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Rhobin Courtright

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
Enjoyed your post! I also read many books every year and have since my preteens, so those I remember are special in some way. It may not be just the emotional/physical response, but that is certainly a large part. Liked the Steve Jobs quote -- and you are right-- it is important in writing.
Posted by Rhobin on 06/25/2016 - 09:44 AM
i agree with Rhobin. I still love re/reading Jane Eyre. The novels we read as preteens and teens have a major effect on our reaction to, and understanding of, life.
Posted by Connie Vines on 06/25/2016 - 11:58 AM
You are so right. What a lovely blog you wrote. Good for you. Writing does fill us up like nothing else.
Posted by Heather Haven on 06/25/2016 - 07:42 PM
I'm with you, Skye, I have to be emotionally involved in the story to write it. When I struggle writing the story, it's because I'm trying to make it take a different direction than it needs to go. I think I would have wanted to strangle the author of Forever Amber. Was it billed as a romance? If so, that's no romance. I don't know if I would have stuck with it. The heroine would have been in my TSTL category. LOL
Posted by Marci on 06/26/2016 - 02:03 AM
What an excellent take on our subject, Skye. I know what you mean about forgetting things that have been heard and not seen. I have a visual memory - sometimes down to the position on the page and whether it was facing or back - so I like to write down a person's name. I still forget, but there's that fighting chance... Anne Stenhouse
Posted by anne stenhouse on 06/27/2016 - 06:44 AM
Skye, I really liked your input on audible books. I've never listened to one myself, but just today at work I was talking with a friend who teaches first graders. She told me about how she loves to read to kids, get to a really suspenseful part, then say, "...aaaand we'll have to stop there!" I imagine audio books bring about the same affect; you just don't get to see the person telling you the story!
Posted by Rachael Kosinski on 06/27/2016 - 05:11 PM
I liked the Steve Jobs quote. Isn't that so true? I haven't listened to many audible books, I don't usually travel far enough distances or have enough time when at home to listen to them. Those I have listened to have been made memorable more by the narrator than the actual story.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 07/11/2016 - 01:27 PM

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