Posted On January 16, 2017 by Print This Post

Emotional Depth – Putting the Spark in Your Story by Rachael Thomas

Good morning! Please welcome back Harlequin author Rachael Thomas.

During my journey to publication I was told my work lacked spark. At the time it baffled me. What was this magical spark and how did I get some into my writing? Then I had one of those lightbulb moments when I read that emotional depth ignites the spark. Suddenly it made sense.

So what is emotional depth? It is connecting with your readers, inducing emotion within them, moving them with your characters and their story. It’s giving them the chance to escape from their day-to-day lives and immerse themselves in the world you have created within your story.

Your reader wants to experience and feel what your hero and heroine feel. They want to feel that fizz of instant attraction as your heroine meets your hero at the beginning of the story, either for the first time or after having been apart for some time. They want to go on the journey of emotions as the hero and heroine head towards their happy ever after. The reader wants to feel their happiness, their elation. They want to laugh with them, cry with them. The reader wants to feel outraged by what one of them does or says and finally they want that warm sensation of satisfaction, that ahh moment when all is well and the hero and heroine head off into the sunset, happy and together, all problems solved.

Where does the reader get all this? From the words you write, the words they read. They might be just words on a page but from the emotion you put into your characters and your story the reader will be able to feel it too. It is the emotion, you as the writer felt as the words came onto the page. To get that emotion onto the page and into the words, you need to dig deep within yourself, to recall what it felt like to be in that first flush of love, or to be so angry with someone you just couldn’t speak. It doesn’t have to be the same situation, but using your memory of emotions will allow you to tap into what your character is feeling and show your reader.

When you start to bring your characters to life, you need to decide what emotions are they hiding behind, what is in their past that has shaped them into the person your reader will meet on page one of your story. Create your hero and heroine from the inside out. Then as your characters move through your story, different scenes will challenge these deep-rooted emotions within them, making them do or say things. You, as the writer need to know before beginning a new scene what emotion they will show to the reader, how the character will feel in that given situation and to do this. You need to be in tune with your own emotions, release them into your characters and their story and so, to the reader.

Here are my tips for creating that spark of emotion.

Ensure your reader knows your character

A reader will only invest emotionally in your story if they are can identify with your characters. If you are told a certain happy or sad event has happened to a stranger you might be interested, but if you were told that it had happened to someone you know, the depth of your emotions would be much greater. Make sure your reader knows your characters, so that as they read your story and experience what your character goes through, they will feel that same emotion, go on the journey with them.

Show the emotion

Always show your reader what is happening in a scene instead of telling them. Show how your hero feels when the heroine walks away through his actions. Allow the reader into your heroine’s world to feel all the pain she is feeling as she realises there is no future with your hero.

As you write a scene, know what emotion you want, know how you want your character to feel and allow your words and the characters actions show that to the reader. Make the reader feel that sense of betrayal when your hero discovers the heroine isn’t who he thought she was or that pang of fear as he is confronted by the one thing that represents all he’s tried to hide from in the past.

Choose your words wisely

Your choice of words will have great impact of the depth of emotion within the scene as will the length of your sentences. Back to the hero watching the heroine walk away. He won’t be thinking with soft and light words in long flowing sentences. The drama of the moment will be increased by short sentences and paragraphs and words which convey his desperation or shock. Equally, when the heroine is full of love for the hero, more gentle words will convey this.

Use your setting

As you write a scene, use all your senses to show the reader where the characters are and how that setting has an impact of the emotion of the moment. If the hero is watching the heroine walk away from him in the middle of a party, bursting with people that are happy and enjoying themselves this could have greater impact than if he’d just watched her walk out of his office. One word of caution. Don’t get carried away with the scene setting, bring in elements that will increase the emotion and be relevant to the emotions your characters will be experiencing.

Mix it up

Use a range of emotions throughout your story. Allow the reader to feel the heroine’s happiness as she enjoys time with the hero before that big dark cloud of disaster looms on the horizon. If the heroine is happy, the hero might be reserved or worried. Remember that your characters won’t always be feeling the same emotion at the same time – unless it’s that all important happy-ever-after!

And finally – Don’t hold back

One other little gem of advice I heard as I was working towards publication was that the reader will not feel nearly as much emotion as you the writer will when the scene is being written, so don’t be afraid to allow your emotions to pour onto the page. Really feel what your characters feel and your reader will too. No matter how great your writing is, if you cannot make your reader feel, move them with the emotions of your hero and heroine and make them care about them, you story won’t work.

Do you have any tips on adding emotional depth to a story?


A Child Claimed by Gold (One Night with Consequences)  [Harlequin – December 2016]

A scandal of their own making 
Nikolai Cunningham has kept his family history secret for seventeen years. So when photographer Emma Sanders is granted exclusive access to his childhood home, he returns to Russia to ensure it stays hidden.

Though she tries to keep her eye on the story, Nikolai’s potent sexuality proves too much for Emma’s untouched body to resist! But, convinced she only wanted a scoop, Nikolai casts Emma out, unaware she’s pregnant!

When the consequence of their recklessness is revealed, Nikolai will legitimize his heir—with a gold wedding ring!


Bio: I love escaping to distant shores with my characters, entering their glamorous world and feeling all the emotions they experience as they discover their love for one another. A love so strong it will overcome all obstacles eventually, leading to that promised happy ever after.

Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web: Website  Blog  Facebook  Twitter  Goodreads


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9 Responses to “Emotional Depth – Putting the Spark in Your Story by Rachael Thomas”

  1. They say there are two types of fiction: plot-driven and character-driven. I happen to believe that when a story is written really well, the two are closely related. But character sells me on a story far more than plot. I loved this post, because character will never develop without emotions pouring onto the page. Great insight.

    Posted by Staci Troilo | January 16, 2017, 10:11 am
  2. Thanks, Rachael! This is so timely as I’m entering the dreaded edit phase on a story. I love strong characterization, but in my own work, I sometimes feel it’s the hardest to master.

    Posted by Tamara Hunter | January 16, 2017, 2:58 pm
  3. Rachael, how difficult is it to alter the setting using the five senses to enhance the emotion of the scene? Can just darkening the room a little in some way work? An exaggeration would be something like the movie, Forces of Nature.

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | January 16, 2017, 5:34 pm
    • The darkening of a room could make it worse, or better for one of the characters, play on their emotions and in turn the readers. Which way that changed or heightened the emotions would depend on the scene in question. Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted by Rachael Thomas | January 17, 2017, 3:33 am
  4. Thanks so much for this very helpful post – I bookmarked it!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 17, 2017, 10:21 pm
  5. Hi Rachael,

    I’ve read stories with a great premise but couldn’t finish them because the characters lacked depth and left me questioning their motivation. I don’t even have to like a character, but as long as he/she is compelling, I’ll keep reading. Great to have you back with us!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 18, 2017, 3:29 pm


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