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The Missing Elements: Emotion and Showing

Two more pieces to build your story.

There were two elements of Jerry Cleaver’s formula for story that I didn’t include previously.

While want, obstacle, action, and resolution shape the story, it is emotion and showing that connect it to your audience.

Emotion means that you must always communicate your character’s feelings along their journey.

For Cleaver, the quickest way to pin this down is to ask what a character’s worries, fears, and hopes are. A character’s hope relates to their wants, while worries and fear relate to the story’s conflict.

Showing  is about capturing the experience on the page.

This is where using action and response comes in handy. It is the essential element, the moment-by-moment, blow-by-blow DNA of story on the page.

This is also where emotion and showing cross paths. If a character feels an emotion, this leads to a response—a thought or action—which leads to further responses.

As you can see, emotion and showing don’t work separately from story but alongside it. Learning to integrate all the pieces is your key to success.