Writing for Emotional Impact
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association


Now, don’t go get all emotional on me…..

Spring has Sprung! My favorite time of year! A bright new quarter, longer days to write, warmer, but not hot weather, and something special in the air. The big competitions will be here in the coming weeks and hopefully vacation plans become a reality this year.

We made it through the first quarter of 2021 focusing on Plotting. Now we turn to Story for the next three months. And we start by talking about one of my favorite books on story, Writing For Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques To Attract, Engage, and Fascinate The Reader From Beginning To End. Whew! Long title but also long on details and techniques and just great reading for any writer.

The book’s author, Karl Iglesias, is a familiar name in the world of writing and especially with PSA members as Karl has come out to Phoenix (pre COVID) and talked to us about Emotional Impact. Karl is a speaker, a professor at UCLA Extension, contributor to various on-line writing websites, and a story consultant specializing in audience emotional response. And he is one of the nicest writers you will ever meet.

Let’s jump into why this would be an excellent book to add to your writer’s library. This book offers advanced techniques and is focused on the craft of screenwriting and is recommended by Karl to use as a complement to any how-to book on how to write great screenplays. And that is how I use it. As a compliment. If you already know the basics, if you have written several screenplays, then this is a wonderful guide to hone in on specific techniques that will move your audience.

Karl reminds us “Emotional contact with the reader is the only strategy for success.” And while we experience emotions from the musical score, the editing, the cinematography, the directing, the set design, etc, Karl highlights in his book that “Reading is a personal activity and that the reader will only experience emotions from your words and how you string them together on the page…”

I especially like how Karl breaks down a well-known saying among writers that a script needs to be “A good story, well told.” First, Karl explains we must create the imaginary world and life of our characters (a good story) and second, create the intended emotional effect on the reader (well told).

Karl helps us to achieve the “well told” portion through his chapters, starting in Chapter 1: The Emotion-Delivery Business then on to Chapters titled: The Reader: Your Only Audience, Unique Attraction, Captivating Empathy through Character, Rising Tension, Engaging Design, Mesmerizing Moments and my favorite, Painting On The Page. There are several more chapters in addition, enough to keep any writer engaged and honing their craft of captivating and getting their audiences to feel their story.

Each chapter is beautifully laid out so the writer can quickly build their skills in each area of writing. The Basics kick off each chapter then build to Key Elements, then on to The Craft and Techniques and finally On The Page examples to see how to apply all you have learned in the chapter.

This book is a gold standard on emotions and how to get your reader emotionally engaged in your story.

Happy reading and writing and hopefully you take your writing outside and enjoy this glorious weather!

If you would like to drop me a line and let me know how your writing is going or if you found something in Karl’s book you especially liked, you can reach me at jessbrown44@gmail.com.

And don’t forget PSA Membership has some great perks and discounts. Become a valued member and join us at our events online, and hopefully soon, in person.

You can catch me the first Monday of every month at The Writers Lounge and the last Tuesday of every month at The Writers Insights Workshop. Both are on-line. Sign up through EventBrite or MeetUp through PSA. I hope to see you soon.

Cheers, and Happy Spring!

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