A while back, someone asked me how I could pack so much emotional punch into my short stories. And just now, I found my response just lying around, so I thought I’d share my secrets with all of you! 😉
1) Keep it simple. Don’t get hung up on detail. Your characters are in psychological shock; they’re not going to notice EVERYTHING about the scene, unless they’re just that sort of person. That much said, grab a few small details for them to notice (such as a bird singing, or the fact that that poor little violet is singed.) That sort of thing makes an impact.
2) WORD CHOICE. This is perhaps the most important one. You want to pick the optimum words to slam the ultimatum your story is delivering home, packing a punch from the first word out. Keep your sentences short and as concise as possible, but don’t overdo it. (You can leave a reader gasping for breath with shorter sentences–they’ll read faster and faster, and when the scene’s over, they’ll be gasping for breath.)
3) You can show a character considering doing something that otherwise they wouldn’t probably do. (Like Natasha Romanoff, who isn’t exactly comfortable with religion, praying.)
4) The emotions of a character who would normally be considered emotionally strong, or an emotional center for other characters. (Steve Rogers is probably the strongest emotional center the Avengers have—everything he says and does impacts them strongly, and sometimes the other characters reflect his emotions. So when he’s impacted, everyone is.) If you show someone like Steve shaken to his or her core, then the audience will know that Something Very Bad is happening.
5) Create an illusion of “ringing in the ears.” You want the reader to experience what the characters are experiencing. I remember an episode of the Clone Wars where there was an explosion, and right afterward, there was an odd sort of ringing silence, like the bomb had done something to the audience’s ears, and the world seemed to be in slow motion. What it really was was a lack of clear detail, and a sense of blurriness, with a sort of stop-action movement… Basically, you’ve hit your head and now you’re seeing things move less as movement and more as a series of rough poses in progression… I don’t know how to put it any better.
I think that’s about it. Basically, take a character everyone cares about, and then show what they’re feeling. 🙂 Select one or two pieces of sensory data to focus on to imply shock. Good luck! 😉
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!