I love books that make me feel. If an author can write well enough to make me cry or laugh or have my heart pounding with fear for some scary thing I know is about to happen, I'm going to make note of that writer's name and buy her or him again and again.
Now you know why I have almost every book written by David Morell. Yes, he wrote the Rambo series, but many other action thriller books, as well. Once the professor of creative writing at Iowa University, he is a master story-teller. My favorite of his books is The League of Night and Fog.
Books one and two of Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum series are my favorites for bed shaking laughter (now that I'm writing fulltime, the only chance I have to read is in bed). That woman can write such vivid pictures of her characters that you can't help but laugh.
AJ Neust, one of my sweet online buddies, certainly made me cry as I read Jezebel's Wish. And there are many others.
Still, the question remains. How does a writer suck you into the emotions on the page?
Deep point of view.
When we write in a way that shows, we engage our readers. If I write--Someone was walking behind Gloria, and she turned to see who it was. She saw a man in a dark coat and black ski mask.--that's telling. But notice the difference in overall tone, if I show you. A twig snapped and foilage rustled in the night. Someone was behind her, following her, stalking her. Gloria's footsteps increased as she peered over her shoulder. A man in a dark coat and black ski mask stood not ten feet away. Moonlight glinted off the chrome barrel of his gun, and it was pointed directly at her.
Did you hear the twig snap under his foot? Did you feel the unease creep up her spine? Did you almost gasp when she saw the man and his gun?
When a writer uses "she heard" or "she felt" or "she saw," we are distanced from the story. We're being told the story. There's no chance for us to experience it. But if the writer shows us what the point of view character sees, hears, feels and thinks, we become a part of the experience. We're sucked into the story. We're at one with the point of view character. We're hooked.
My goals as a writer are two-fold. One, I want to tell a good story. Two, I want to hook you from the first paragraph and whisper in your ear, "Hang on, I'm about to take you for a ride." I'm going to introduce you to some great characters, some sweet, some nasty and some quite quirky. I'm going to have you feel a range of emotions between the words "Chapter One" and "The End." Or at least try very hard to do so. I want you "in" my story. And I want you coming back for more.