The other day one of my readers, upon reaching the end of the book, exclaimed, “The feeellllsss!!!” If you’re not familiar with that particular meme, click here. To summarize, “the feels!” is what someone shouts when they’ve just been emotionally affected (strongly) by something done to them, something someone said, or, in this case, something they just read.
When a painter paints, they add paint to a brush and they make strokes, the aggregate of those strokes is some picture designed to evoke some response in the viewer. Authors are very similar, but the paints we use are the sum total of the reader’s life experiences prior to reading the book, and the strokes are our words. We use the words to pull up memories, to pull emotions and feelings to the surface as they read, taking our reader along for the roller coaster ride we have planned for them.
Writing is more than just telling a story. It isn’t just the mechanical action of relaying information, it’s the act of choosing the right words, in the right order, to compel your reader to feel what you want them to feel. If you want them to feel excitement during an action scene or sadness in another scene, joy somewhere else, then you must chose your brush strokes wisely and deliberately. Getting a reader to feel something while reading nothing more than “words on a page” is a difficult thing to do, because it feels (to the reader) like a complete accident, as though they were simply reading the words and they stumbled onto an emotional response along the way.
Needless to say, I felt a huge emotional response when I heard the shout of “the feeelllls!!”. Having someone say they like your story is one thing, but knowing that your words have had an emotional impact on a reader, that is the epitome of gratification for a writer, and I will never forget that moment.