Writing for Emotion: Intentional Reader and Character Disconnect

Sometimes, you want your reader and your POV character to feel different emotions. Deliberately evoking different emotions in the reader and the POV character can allow for reader nail-biting despite the character’s seeming positive state of being (Seldom do you want the reverse – positive reader emotion with negative character emotion – unless for comedic effect.)

You may reach a point in your work where you need to slow the pace. Maybe you need something good to happen to keep the character from loosing all hope. Or you need a peaceful interlude for healing, planning, or romance. At the same time, you don’t want the reader to set down your book.

  1. The looming threat This technique gives the reader threatening knowledge that the character lacks. Possibly the easiest way to use this technique is to precede the peaceful or triumphant chapter or scene with a passage from the antagonist’s POV. Have the antagonist set a plan into motion that does not take effect immediately but starts a ticking clock to which the protagonist is oblivious.
  2. The worm in the apple. In this technique, the reader knows that things are not as rosy as they seem and that sooner or later (probably sooner), the main character will find only half of the worm. Have the protagonist achieve apparent mastery of an environment or situation. Precede this scene with a scene in another POV that shows the worm to the reader – and maybe to another character.

These techniques rely on the reader having information that the character is not privy to. Perhaps the easiest way to provide this information is through a scene or chapter in another POV.However, there is another option. You can start the chapter in an omniscient POV, then narrow your focus to your POV character.

Have your own strategy? Feel free to share!

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