Empowering Emotions through the Climax

Is he The GOOD guy or the BAD guy?  And how do you show what emotions he is experiencing?

Is he The GOOD guy or the BAD guy? And how do you show what emotions he is experiencing?

Picture this:

The Good Guy has confronted the Bad Guy. The Bad Guy is no longer in the picture, leaving the Good Guy alone in the domain of the Bad Guy.

What happens next?

I will tell you what happens next.

The Good Guy takes a moment to digest what has happened. He considers what it means to him.

He experiences EMOTIONS.

I was finishing this scene and I really wanted to highlight the emotion the Good Guy was experiencing and a good way to do this is to ‘Layer the Emotional Beats’.

A beat is a single expression, which shows one thought, one idea.

“The Good Guy’s heart felt heavy.” Ok, so this is not a great sentence, but it is one emotional beat. You get one hit on the emotion mark.

But what if you really want to ram home the message that this is some serious emotion going on, not just the regular emotion you experience after a try-fail cycle, but the serious, climax of the novel emotion?


Throw on another beat.

“The Good Guy’s heart felt heavy. His eyes welled up and his lips drew back to a thin tight line.” There, two more emotional beats added. Again I won’t win awards for it, but you get a further sense of the emotion.

At these kind of points in the novel however you’ll need to go deeper. You can’t just describe the sadness. You need to add movement and you need to add internal dialogue. You need to show the character processing the emotion. What it means to him, let his description of his surroundings be flavoured by the emotion he sees.

“The Good Guy’s heart felt heavy. His eyes welled up and his lips drew back to a thin tight line. He trudged to the viewport and looked down on the planet. The clouds were a dirty grey, and still, too depressed to follow the coriolis winds. He imagined the millions of people down there. Waking up, going through their monotonous routines, living their dreary lives with no knowledge their lives had rested on a knife edge. Not that he’d get any thanks for saving them. He’d saved a whole space station from disaster before and received a free spa entry. Scaling that up to a planet would be a hamper at best. His shoulders didn’t just sag, they collapsed, like a pair of buildings that had instantly lost all their structural steel.”

So this reads like I just made it up on the spot, which means it is a very accurate piece of writing. Nevertheless hopefully you can see a bit better where the Good Guys head is at. He is feeling pretty crap about something.

Margie Lawson calls this ‘Powering up’ the emotion and divides passages into four level of Emotion strength, ranging from basic up to super empowered.

A basic emotional passage would have one hit or one emotional beat. More often than not, that will be enough. You’ll need a sprinkling of complex passages (2-4 hits) throughout the novel. At important parts of the novel you’ll need to go empowered (Up to 8 hits). Remember of course that 93% of communication is non verbal, so use that body language for those emotional hits. See my article at Kami’s blog for more info.

In the drafting process you should always feel free to go crazy and put too much emotion in. Just make sure you check it out in follow up edits. You don’t want to pad the novel out with emotion. You want the right amount of emotion, appropriate for whatever part of the novel you are up to.

How do you tell if you have padded the novel?

Get an Alpha reader to read the novel and tell you šŸ™‚

Editing Metrics:

Progress Meter


274/ 274 (100.0%)


PageĀ Count For The Week:Ā 20.

Updated Word Count: 129,894

Fiction Moment of the Week:

Obviously the big moment was finishing the edit. I went back, changed the start of the story slightly, added a new scene, altered one I had already had feedback on and then sent it to out to a publisher, family, friends and last but not least, the Alpha readers.

The Alpha reading phase is perhaps one of the most crucial steps in the whole process. One of the problems in writing is that I know what is in the story, what is explained, what is not, what each character is thinking, etc, but this doesn’t necessarily match what I’ve put on the page.

I’m too close to the story. I need someone who doesn’t know the story intimately to read it. They will tell me what is there, what is missing, what is confusing, what works and what doesn’t.

Its pretty damn exciting really, though I know that my heart is going to get broken by the feedback. There will be things missing. There will be a disconnect between my brain and the page. But after I scrape myself off the floor I’ll fix the problems and the story will be infinitely stronger because of it.

Real Life Moment of the Week:

I started the new job this week. A lot of getting my computer and desk sorted, learning about the products, asking questions, etc. An exciting time!

Commander's Log Cover art
Commander’s Log Podcast

Episode 9 is currently available for download. You can check out all the episodes on iTunes or the podcast page.

The planning for episode 10 is already underway. This is going to be a fun one and I’m going to need a few guest stars to help with the story. I’ll also be talking with another Elite:Dangerous writer, one who seems to quite like strong female protagonists (though don’t we all?)

More news on that next week.


Thanks everyoyne for stopping by. Remember to sign up for updates delivered straight to your inbox by entering your email address to the sign up box at the top right. Cheers, and see you next time.



5 responses to “Empowering Emotions through the Climax

  1. Great post. And third dimension of that emotion would be a call back to something related to the act at either the beginning of the book, or better, from the Hero’s back story. That kind of callback/resonance can really hit home for the reader, if pulled off properly.

  2. Hi John,

    A nice clear illustration of emotional beats. I also liked the way you broadened the context from simple physical character description and action to using mood enhancement by colouring the scenery as well.

    Tony mentions using backstory to set up resonance, and you can also use word choice, rhythm, and repetition to add subtleties in places as well. It’s a case of not overusing any element, which you also covered above.

    A good post.

    Also, I hope you settle into the new job quickly.

    • Hi T.J

      Thanks for you comments and your additional points. The new job is going great, My first week was supposed to be reading literature to learn the ropes. instead i’ve been thrown in the deep end getting things sorted fun!

  3. Heyy there! I’ve been reading your website for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead
    and give you a shout out from Humble Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep
    up the great job!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s