How to Emotionally Move your Readers

by Marianne Richmond | 17 comments

Think about it.  Why do you recommend a certain book?  Share a link? When do you implore a friend to see the movie?  Same answer for all:  When a book/movie/musician/vacation/ story/sunset moves you emotionally, you can't help but tell others about it and urge them to experience the emotion that moved you! Ah, but no easy feat amid the gazillion things trying to nab our attention.   Buy Me!  Read me!  Watch me!  Oh, and tell others!

Reading by Rachel Sian

Reading by Rachel Sian

A recent testimonial on for my picture book If I Could Keep You Little illustrates this emotion -leads-to-telling reality.

“I read my friend's copy and was overcome with emotion. I knew I needed to get it for my nieces who have young kids. This book perfectly sums up every feeling in a parent's heart.”

How to Emotionally Move your Readers

So, what are some ways to emotionally move your readers — enough to get them to feel a little more deeply about your work and a) want to read it and b) talk to others about it!  Here's three that come to mind for me, and I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.

1. Develop / Distribute Your Book in Surprising Way.

Writer Alexandra Franzen distributed the first two chapters of her steamy, erotic novel via Twitter; including her 11K followers in the “first look” excitement.  She promises three  chapters, gratis, then an invitation to purchase the book.  An unconventional approach by a most interesting woman! Another example by our own Joe Bunting who is hooking  readers through  Goodbye Paris, a collaborative memoir project.   Joe invites readers to suggest the adventures on which he can embark!

2. Do Something (or Make up Something) Crazy, Compelling, or Controversial and Be Incredibly Honest With It.

Humans love our collective human-ness and savor a story that lets us travel someone else's journey for a couple hundred pages.  A few that come to mind.  Eat, Pray, Love.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  Tuesday's With Morrie and Heaven is for Real.  Whether you love the subject matter or not, we can analyze for hours certain topics that tap into universal emotion.  It's been said that one must live an interesting life to have an interesting story to tell!

3. Shock the H*ll out of Them.

Jodi Picoult penned a surprising and terribly sad ending to her 2003 novel, My Sister's Keeper. Picout admitted her own son was so upset by it, he didn't want to speak to her for days.  Many of her readers felt the same way and talked A LOT about it.  A LOT.  Then, of course, millions more needed to read the book to read the ending !  How can you shock your readers to get them talking?


Share with your fellow writers any techniques you've used to get your readers talking!  Have your strategies worked or not?


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Marianne Richmond

I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products.
Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).


  1. Birgitte Rasine

    How curious you should post this now, Marianne. I’m about to send out my author’s newsletter, where I share a profound, and emotional, experience related to my latest book.. it has to do with a disappearing language.

    • Marianne Richmond

      Can’t wait to read Birgitte!

    • Parsinegar

      The case of a linguicide? Must be interesting, Birgitte.

    • Parsinegar

      That’s really painful, indeed. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you on this tough, and yet more-than-sacred task.

  2. James Hall

    Shock them, huh? Let me go get my taser….

    Wonderful points, Marianne. Exceptional stories draw exceptional attention.

  3. PJ Reece

    I’ve written a novel about a comedian who wants to kill himself… as a sacrifice to his lover so that she may live out her final days in a way that’s ultimately most satisfying… and it’s a work of humour… and no one seems to get it… so I’m looking to find out why I have not connected emotionally with readers. Which is why I read this post.

    • Marianne Richmond

      P.J. — ask them straight out. What’s not working for you about this idea? You’d be amazed at what you may hear! Often I find people interpret things very differently that I sometimes intend.

    • PJ Reece

      I’ll do that. I wouldn’t mind at all wading back into this work-in-perpetual-progress and giving it new shades of meaning. Thanks for your encouragement, M.R.

    • Sandra D

      I haven’t read your story, it could be a lot of different things, could be writing style needs to be tighter, or that not enough people are finding the story. But the one thing I would wonder is if it really seems believable. I mean it sounds like it could be great, it is a great idea. But it also seems challenging to pull off. Because ultimately I believe even when people are being selfless, there is a selfish reason behind it. And if you haven’t figured out what the selfish motivation is then the character may come off one sided?

  4. Maure

    I’ve seen people saying you shouldn’t compare your book to other stories, but when I’m just chatting with people I’ll often use that to interest people in a story – like, ‘think steampunk Jurassic Park,’ or ‘Frozen meets Game of Thrones’.

    It works very well to give people an idea of whether it’s something they’ll like, and if the two elements are weird/seem hard to combine that often adds its own interest. Obviously the stories aren’t exactly like the other stories I mention, and sometimes there are books/stories I have a hard time comparing, but I think it works pretty well for a ‘hey look at this cool thing I made’ casual tactic.

  5. Kate Taylor

    Earning a lot of money with my books would be divine. For now, as I write, market, and share, I say again and again, I just want people to read me and experience my tales.

    The first book I wrote The Pink Eraser was about a little girl named Opal. From the age of three, she thought that she had to be perfect in order to be loved. Readers reacted to the details of her feelings and emotions that I shared with them. People told me that they wish they could have told her that they loved her. From childhood until she was a woman in her mid-fifties, Opal struggled. They identified with her struggles as well. When I gave out books or sold them in person, I gave out pink erasers and told the reader that they would need one for themselves. Most people came back to me and said, “I wish I had had a pink eraser years ago.” Some even remark when they see me today that they keep the eraser close at hand. Many tell me that the book was healing for them.

    When I write, I want to affect my readers’ senses. I want them to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, and to feel right along with the characters as events are taking place. I want the reader’s spirit to be touched. When I develop a character, I sculpt him or her in detail, inside and out. They have unique personalities with feelings, emotions, and flaws. I am the creator, and piece of me goes into each of them.

    • Marianne Richmond

      Kate — I love what you wrote about! This is exactly the point — you’ve tapped into a deep place within your readers and unearthed emotions that are incredibly relevant — well done! It sounds to me like a concept that has as much potential as you can explore!

    • Kate Taylor

      Thank you Marianne and Eva. I’ve had a few times when I’ve written a critical event that happens in a character’s life, it even takes its toll on me and I have to walk away for a little while, and I’m the one creating the story! Words are so powerful!

    • Dawn Atkin

      Kate, I too have had to leave my characters and story for a while when disturbing events have occurred. The surprising thing has been that I hadn’t planned some of these events they gurgled out of their creative accord. This too has sent me into a tumble of mixed emotions. It’s interesting that my own writing has confronted me, I only hope that my readers don’t walk away too.

    • eva rose

      What a unique story! Children and adults need to hear it. I identify with the idea you want readers to hear you and experience what your characters think and feel. Good luck!

  6. sherpeace

    Actually, many people were angry with Picoult at the ending of “My Sister’s Keeper.” I was sticking up for her on Amazon UNTIL I saw the movie. They changed it to an ending that is inevitable (which many say the ending should be) and makes the viewer feel like “Yes, this had to happen this way.”
    I have rethought my own novel as my ending could have also been disheartening too. We must, at least, consider how the reader will feel at the end of our story. Do we really want them angry at the book AND the author?



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