I was recently reminded of this quote:
They may forget what you said—but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Carl W. Buehner
It’s commonly misattributed to Maya Angelou.
Whoever said it first, it’s a pertinent observation when it comes to the stories that we write.
Looking at my own writing—the short stories, novellas and novels—a trait that they share is the protagonist surviving awkward or dangerous situations, and coming through emotionally bruised, with their misconceptions about life changed for the better and optimistic about the future.
They’re not so much feel-good stories, more conforming to what P.D. James said:
What the detective story is about is not murder, but the restoration of order.
Order is restored in most of my tales, not just in my Cornish Detective novels, though there’s still an uneasy sense that things can go wrong and that it’s wise to be watchful and kind to others, as we’re all travelling a rocky road. I try to make my reader empathise with the humanity of my characters, including the antagonists, taking them on a journey that reaches a believable destination, even if it isn’t quite where they thought they were going. On the way, I want them to be intrigued, menaced, thrilled and relieved.
Occasionally, I’ll leave loose ends to make readers wonder about the fate of a character, as not everything should be tied in a neat bow. I’ve also written a few horror stories, aimed at making the reader feel unsettled, at the very least, if not scared to venture outdoors ever again!
How do you try to make your readers feel?
Confused about a moral dilemma?
Sleepy? Hopefully not, unless it’s a bedtime book for youngsters.