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That may sound a little sappy. I’m not talking kissing-in-the-rain romance here. I’m talking about the tool that can transform an “okay” piece of writing into a masterpiece.

Emotion.

Make your readers laugh, cry, or scream, and they’ll never forget you. That goes for anything you write, fiction or nonfiction.

No one wants to read a sterile story. We complain about a popular T.V. show because “no one has that much drama in their life,” but would you watch a show about your day-to-day existence?

Case and point.

To this day my sister’s favorite of my manuscripts is the one that made her run out of the room shouting at me.

But how does one actually accomplish this? What’s the secret to writing words that touch not only a reader’s mind, but their heart as well?

It’s something I’ve been considering recently. I think it has to do with recognizing the complexity.

When I was a kid I used to flip through board books proudly pointing out “that’s a sad face” or “that’s a happy face.”

As adults we realize a face can be both at the same time…and neither…and so much more. The slightest change in someone’s expression or posture can tell a completely different story.

Every face has a history. There’s no such thing as “happy,” “sad,” or “excited” anymore. At least, for a writer there can’t be. The real world isn’t so black-and-white. The complexity is what makes us human.

People fall in love with characters like Lucy Pevensie, an unassuming little girl with the heart of a lioness. Or Huck Finn, an orphan who’s views on friendship and race relations blow our snazzy political debates out of the water. Or Aragorn, who has more courage and honor than a contingent of knights but runs from the crown he was destined for.

They’re enduring characters because they’re real.

I’m currently working on a character who’s half a cold-blooded assassin and half the eight-year-old child she never grew out of.

Reality beats perfection every time. If you can tap into that, you’ll write words that live forever.