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Making your reader cry

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I know telling that my MC is crying is just that: telling.   :shrug:   What are some thoughts on why you cry at a novel-and how you try to elicit that response from your reader.    :meditate
#1 - April 06, 2014, 09:35 AM

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I'm not much of a crier when it comes to books and movies.


That said, if I cry it's when a scene or even just a line strikes a significant emotional cord in me. It has nothing to do with whether the MC or anyone else in the scene is crying. I don't think we can move readers to tears merely by moving our characters to tears. I think we have the best chance of eliciting tears when we tap into the most universal and honest emotions we can in that scene. Not all will cry, but some may, and it'll be those for whom that particular emotional material is crucial.


Example: One time a character in a scene said to another, "I wish it didn't have to be this way." You wouldn't think that could start the waterworks, but that feeling of *regret* and of wishing things were different than they are but being helpless to change them really impacted me.


Also, in general, I think understatement and refraining from sentimentality or melodrama will help. 
#2 - April 06, 2014, 10:40 AM
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I had tears in my eyes when I wrote the death scene of one of my favorite characters from ROT & RUIN. I focus on characters first in my books, so they become real people to me. Writing that death scene hit me hard. And it hit me again when I listened to the audiobook version.
#3 - April 06, 2014, 12:00 PM
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Really great responses-
mrh- You're right. I'm thinking of a scene from The Fault in our Stars which had to do more with me, then the novel. Though, I enjoyed the novel. But I brought my own "emotional chord" to my reading. Great response. I do believe that leaving out sentimentality and melodrama are key--It's hard. Sometimes I have to write it that way first.    :thanks2
#4 - April 06, 2014, 12:39 PM

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I think I also cry when the MC is internally conflicted - when either road seems to lead to tragedy. Of course, somehow the author manages to find a resolution that isn't so bad after all.
#5 - April 06, 2014, 03:36 PM
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Sometimes if the situation is gut-punching and the MC DOESN'T cry, the reader can't help but get teary. In other words, use restraint and understatement, like Marcia said.
#6 - April 06, 2014, 03:51 PM

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What makes me cry is usually not the moment when something tragic happens, but when the main character picks him or herself back up and bravely begins moving on with life.  For example, in Anne of Green Gables....


***spoilers below***








...I didn't cry when Matthew died.  But when Matthew's death finally frees Marilla to tell Anne how much she loves her, that brought out the  waterworks.


 Or in Bridge to Terebithia...


***more spoilers***








...I didn't cry when Jesse learned that Leslie had died.  But later on, there's a line about how Jesse decided to pay back to the world what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.  That one left me sobbing.


I can think of another half dozen examples off the top of my head.  That rise-from-the-ashes moment gets me every time.
#7 - April 06, 2014, 06:57 PM

This is how I've figured it out:

The main character must care about someone, and they must have this care outside of what the author them-self makes them care about. The plot is simply a matter of teasing the main character about such concerns.

Obviously the main character must have a personality and a back story, but in short fiction you only have time to determine who the main character cares about -- and back story is left to cleverly written dialogue.

Simply put, it must seem like your characters care through well timed dialogue with the unsaid saying as much as what the main text of the dialogue says.

Maybe that might help?
#8 - April 07, 2014, 12:52 AM
« Last Edit: April 07, 2014, 01:25 AM by SarahW »
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I think if you "try" to make readers cry, it most likely won't work. But if you dig down deep into those moments that have been meaningful/transformative to you and bring them to the page, it might happen. I agree with MVP in that it's usually not the tragedy itself that makes me cry, but a realization based on a tragedy. For me in The Great Gilly Hopkins, *spoiler* it isn't when she has to leave Trotter, but when she has that last phone call and realizes she now has the inner fortitude to deal with what life throws at her because of Trotter that gets me every time.

When you can deliver that in an honest moment, hopefully your reader will go inward and bring their own experience to the table and feel what you'd like them to feel :)
#9 - April 07, 2014, 12:02 PM

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