• Lacrecia Hillis

Emotion vs. Feeling: How to Evoke More From Readers

Recognizing the subtle differences in writing emotion and writing feeling can help render both more powerfully on the page.

BY GUEST COLUMN , FEB 15, 2017

The difference between writing emotion and writing feeling is more one of degree than kind. Feeling is emotion that has been habituated and refined; it is understood and can be used deliberately. I know how I feel about this person and treat her accordingly. Emotion is more raw, unconsidered. It comes to us unbidden, regardless of how familiar it might be. Rage is an emotion. Contempt is a feeling. Both emotion and feeling are essential not only in fiction but in nonfiction. However, given their unique qualities, rendering them on the page requires different techniques. Both rely upon understanding what readers want. People don’t turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced—or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience. Our job is to create a series of effects to facilitate and enhance that experience.

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