I always feel that a book or movie has achieved something great when I have an emotional reaction to it. For a very brief moment, the protagonist's pain, drive, happiness, or shock becomes my own. For a brief moment, I enter the world of the story. And in that brief moment, I become heavily invested in the tale before me. If the protagonist loses, I lose with him. If he triumphs, I do as well.

If I can elicit this kind of reaction in my readers as well, I consider it a great accomplishment. Additionally though, it gets them invested in the story. They really care about the outcome. And getting the reader to care is what it's all about.

Question: That's all well and good. The problem is that the response - that sudden surge of emotion mixed with understanding - is generally brief. It's powerful, but it doesn't last. The reader may remain invested, but the emotion, the link between reader and hero, is gone.

How can I keep that emotional connection alive and healthy? Is there a way?

Example: Spoilers to the Scorch Trails (movie) below:

I generally considered the sequel to the Maze Runner, the Scorch Trials, to be a mediocre movie (I have not read the books). It was all right, but it lacked depth. At the very end, however, the main character states that he will go back to what they just escaped, and he states his reason why. While he was speaking, I felt a brief connection. I understood, and my investment with him grew (which was fortunate, since the rest of the movie didn't do much in that department).

Though the third movie is not out yet, I know that if it somehow maintained the feeling I had at the end of the second movie, I would like it. I would be invested in the hero's mission all the way through, no matter what happened. That's my question. How would such a feat be achieved?

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure if there is a way to draw out a strong emotion of a certain scene into further scenes (particularly into the sequel). You can, however, draw out the emotional scene itself.

I haven't seen The Scorch Trials, so I don't know the scene in question, but if the character gave an emotional speech and then turned and left, you would feel the emotion for the length of the speech and the immediate aftermath.

However, if after the speech his companions asked follow up questions to explain the decision he was making, it would prolong the scene and therefore the emotional connection to the moment.

I think the best way to do it then is to have the intensely emotional part of a scene as early into that scene as possible. Then it will be easier to ride the crest of that emotional wave through the rest of the scene, maintaining that intense emotion without drawing it out for too long, as that will dilute the emotional impact of the entire scene and it will be less intense or memorable.

I think that the only possible way to carry that emotion into a sequel would be to begin by reliving the memory of the incident, or perhaps showing the direct and immediate consequences/ fallout from whatever had occurred. This will certainly be a watered down version of the emotion felt from the previous scene, but will allow them to at least be in the same mindset as they were when finishing the earlier part of the story.


Growing up through the original (Episodes 4-6) Star Wars, I can tell you Return of the Jedi was going to rock most of America no matter what it looked like. We were all invested and even enjoyed the Ewoks--sort of. The same was true, but to a lesser extent, with The Matrix and Terminator series. When the first two kick ass, the viewer/reader is invested.

But that doesn't really answer your question. A lot of the drama depends on the story. A love story usually ends with the hero and heroine being in love. An epic fantasy usually ends with the hero on top of a pIle of dead bodies. The emotional connection occurs as part of the drama of overcoming the obstacles the antagonists throw in the way.

This is our task as writers. From my perspective, it's easier to describe what not to do:

1. Don't assume your readers will automatically fall in love and be invested in your characters (except there might be exceptions with biography and historical fiction). Characters should be developed. You can have action and love scenes or whatever, but initial interactions with the major players should create a feeling of a circle of friends and camaraderie against a sadistic plan to be overcome.

2. Don't be front heavy with all your cool ideas. Stories should build towards a climax. These are "page turners." The more you build, the more invested the reader. A successful novel of 100,000 words can have the reader interested by 10,000, fascinated by 40,000, on the seat of their pants by 80,000, and up to 3 AM to finish. There's no let down there.

3. Be wary of melodrama. Intentionally eliciting a reaction usually backfires. An untimely death, a "twist," a big speech--these better be well-placed and perfect to maintain a steady emotional reaction

4. Don't settle into one emotional state assuming your reader will jump into it every time they open the book. Interspersing some comedy improves the drama and makes your characters more likable.

5. Be wary of crying characters. Dudes cry when their dog or spouse dies, maybe not even in death. If your dude is crying, it must be pretty seriously believable, or he has a mental illness.

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