Writing High Emotion Scenes

In any effective story writing emotional moments are what carry readers forward.

Writing Tip for Today: Here are some tips for writing high emotion scenes:


Readers can’t feel the emotions of the character if they don’t understand the motives and background. When you write that high emotion scene, be sure that you’ve laid the groundwork for the scene.

Foreshadowing is a technique where you give partial information or hints before a story event occurs. You write the basis for what will later turn into a huge emotional moment for the character. To write foreshadowing effectively, adjust the emotions of the character down, so that you’ll have room to rachet up the emotions when the high emotion scene happens.

Pace becomes important in the foreshadowing phase. Remember, the more words you put to a description, the slower the pace. A more detailed scene says to readers: take note of this, it’s important. Foreshadowing will be more effective if it’s not as detailed or long as the culmination scene.

Write Spare

Climax is often the highest emotion scene. If you pace your foreshadowing and gradually build up emotion to a climax, you’ll want to use as few modifiers as possible in the highest emotion scene. Adverbs and adjectives can make a scene sound melodramatic or shallow.

Instead, rely on strong specific verbs to carry the emotional weight. Look for instances where you are tempted to use emotional buzzwords, which tell readers the emotion. Experiment with actions and direct thought in the POV character that show or convey these emotions.

A good way to avoid naming emotions is by practicing observing people in your daily life. What did a person who was anxious do? Fidget? Bite nails bloody? Compile an inventory of both actions and thoughts that can convey emotion without naming it.

Compile a list of actions and thoughts which convey emotion without naming the emotion.

Be Emotional

Your own emotions need to be evident through your scenes and characters. By feeling all the feels as you write, you’re much more likely to choose words and phrases that help readers experience the same emotions.

Try freewriting about sadness or intense emotion. When you’re tempted to tell, substitute vivid description and imagery. Showing an authentic emotion such as shock, anger or grief may take practice.

Another way to increase your high emotion scene skills is by reading scenes which deliver an emotional gut punch. Analyze how an author achieves this—note the choice of verbs, the way the dialogue delivers emotion and the pace at which the scene unfolds. Then go back to your own scene and write more authentic emotion into it.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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