By Cynthia Ruchti
One of the topics I most enjoy teaching at writers’ conferences is “Deepening the Emotional Connection.” The more connected readers feel to our stories, the more likely they’ll read past the first page, the first chapter, all the way to the end. And then keeping thinking about those characters and their plight days or weeks later.
Consider this virtually emotionless example:
Now try this one:
No matter your personal style or preference in reading material, you recognized a difference in the impact and flow of the two examples. The first lay flat on the page. The second may have made you perspire.
The most effective storytellers draw us nearer, as if inviting us closer to the fire around which the story is told, urging us to do more than listen–to lean in.
In the above examples, the author deepened the emotional connection between the character and the reader through specific words choices, rhythm, the senses, emotionally evocative words and actions.
How did GOD deepen the emotional connection with His readers?
• He related almost every principle He taught through story.
• He touched us where we are and where we hurt.
• He wove His truths through drama. Being swallowed by a whale will get your attention. Being the only family to survive a world-wide flood will make a person take notice.
• He used symbolism expertly–the veil torn top to bottom, the napkin that covered the body of Jesus in the tomb found neatly folded…
• He told stories that would cause us to empathize with the characters so we would see ourselves in their good and bad choices.
• He drew us even closer by becoming human, an act that took His story beyond words, beyond rules, beyond laying out facts. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14 ESV).
As an author and speaker, I can tell you statistics about starving children in Africa. Or I can show a photograph. I could show a video, instead, with the sounds of a child’s weak cry to accompany the heartbreaking sight of the starving little one. I could show you a plate with three grains of rice to illustrate how little some of those children have to eat in a day.
Or I could draw close and place a starving child in your arms, so you can hold that frail body, touch the taut skin stretched over brittle ribs, feel his shuddery breath, see the emptiness in his glassy eyes, smell the nearness of death, touch his parched and peeling lips with the tip of your well-fed finger.
Which method would be the most effective in convincing you of the gravity of the problem and the need to take action? Which would hold your attention?
With our word choices, our character development, our focus on deepening the emotional connection, we put the story in our readers’ laps, where it can’t be ignored.
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope. She’s the author of 20 books (fiction, nonfiction, devotionals), many of which have been recognized by prominent industry honors, including multiple Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, and finaling in ACFW’s Carol Awards and the Christy Awards. Her recent release is Restoring Christmas (Worthy Publishing).