So, you dove into the book-writing process. You did your research, hired a book-writing coach, and began the calls with your writing team. Those first calls have been pretty easy—remembering dates and facts, and talking about the shape of your story. As you get ready for your latest call, you don’t expect anything different. After all, relaying your own story is a cinch! As you settle in with your frothy café latte, no whip, your editor relays back a story you discussed on the last call. The next question hits you in the gut.
“Tell me how you felt in that moment.”
You start to sweat in places you don’t want to mention, and put the latte down. Either the caffeine is too strong, or you’re going to have a heart attack.
“Felt”? Why do I have to share how I “felt”? Why does that matter?
Feelings. They are lurking in the background of your story. To you, they are an integral part of your narrative, but somehow you’ve managed to avoid actually talking about them. It’s scary to let people in. After all, you don’t want them to look at you differently—not to mention, it may dredge up painful memories that have been locked away. However, during your book-writing process, you need to discuss feelings because they are the real truth-tellers in your story. To let your writing team and ultimately the reader see how you felt is to let them have a peek at your humanity. People need this glimpse to connect with you.
Remember in fourth grade when you had to do a presentation about your family in front of the entire class? If you’re like most students, your palms felt clammy and you thought, “What if they think I am weird?” We all put on different masks when we are with others because we don’t want to be ridiculed and we don’t want people to see us differently. Somewhere in our brain, we believe sharing feelings means being vulnerable, which can lead to possible negative reactions from others. It is difficult to put your big-kid pants on and overcome that fear. But others need to see your true self to understand you. They not only need to see the person that saved the cat in the burning building, but they also need to understand the way fear screamed at you from every corner of your mind to stop. They need to see what the stakes were for you and what you overcame to go into that building anyway.
Sharing how you felt can bring up emotions and memories you may have locked away for years. Talking about the painful moment where you had to let go of the person you loved can make your voice tremble. Reliving that moment when your 1965 Corvette was smashed to pieces by a falling piano can still make you squirm. As much as we try to avoid dredging up things that may have been painful, they are part of your story. And you know what? Going back through those feelings can be healing. Once you go through the experience of telling, you can process those moments in a different way. You are further removed from the original event. Why do you think therapists make so much money as we sit on their oversized couches and talk about our past? Retelling those painful moments can be freeing and can give you a new perspective.
So, you say you’re happy and live in a perfect house with a perfect world and, perfectly, nothing happens. I’m sorry . . . who is Netflixing that show? Add in neighbors who fall for each other. But one of them has a secret. A cancer diagnosis. Interested in what happens now? That is because there is tension in the story and a problem that needs to be solved! One neighbor feels desperate to be loved but doesn’t want to hurt anyone because death is coming soon, and the other neighbor desperately wants to love and doesn’t know about the illness and is rejected. Feelings and tension!
You need this tension in a book, and your feelings are the beacons that reveal where excitement and uneasiness await. Describing an argument between two siblings paints a broad stroke of a situation. Bringing the reader into the anger, the fear of being left out, the hope of being heard, and the flashback of always wanting to be included pulls the audience in deeper, so they can’t resist reading. That is tension, and without it, and the desire to solve it, your reader will bin the book.
The F-word—ahem, feelings—are necessary if you want to relate to your writing team. It is daunting to talk to complete strangers about your emotions, and it is valid to fear that people may look at you differently once they know what your true thoughts are. But we all need feelings to breathe life into our stories and connect with our true humanity