The Trouble With Emotion And How To Properly Convey It According To Jerry Cleaver

We’re not sticks of wood, no matter how ‘badass’ everybody wants to appear these days. We’re humans with feelings and we need to acknowledge them.

Yes, we might have had our hearts broken one or two times in the past but that doesn’t mean we shut up our hearts and abandon emotion forever.

No matter how heartbroken you are, you can’t deny that you don’t see beggars on the road and your heart bleeds at least a little for them no matter how fraudulent you might have heard some of them can be.

The topic for discussion is emotion. Why is it so hard to write emotion into a story? Or is it hard? Could it be that even though I don’t want it to, my heart has turned to stone?

I wrote a story once and everyone said it was good. The only problem, they said, was that they felt nothing after reading my story. It gave me mixed feelings because I thought I did a good job, only for someone to tell me that while I felt like I had bled into the story, they felt nothing at all.

I’m reading Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver and I have just finished the chapter on emotion. According to Jerry Cleaver, you have to be vulnerable to write characters with emotion. Could it then be that I am not vulnerable enough? Or that I cannot fake it enough?

According to Jerry Cleaver, you have to be vulnerable to write characters with emotion.

He also points out that when you deepen the connection to your writer, you deepen the connection to yourself. So, in some way for a writer, creating characters with emotion is a way of self-actualization.

Finding yourself, something we’re all obsessed with, which is actually important, could be done by paying attention to your character and making them substantial, by making your character real enough. Only then will you find your emotion and reach satisfaction.


According to Jerry Cleaver, all you really have to pay attention to, both inside yourself and with the character, are ‘worries, fears and hopes’.

Vulnerability is the natural and necessary ingredient for identification. When you get close to someone in friendship or in love, you reveal your weaknesses, your vulnerability. That’s how you really get to know someone — by reaching his humanity, his tenderness, his vulnerability. – Jerry Cleaver.

What do you think? Is Jerry Cleaver right? Have you been able to master the art of weaving emotion into your stories?


  • Chuks Chuks

    I agree with Jerry to a large extent. Vulnerability is a part of one’s existence one has to master. When to be vulnerable and when not to be. If you’ve ever experienced the raw euphoria of love for something or someone then you’d understand the concept of vulnerability. The sheer willingness to let go, open yourself to hurt, pain, joy. Vulnerability is great but damning as well.
    Writing about characters that would leave you vulnerability may unleash chain of events that may leave you depressed. Suicidal even.
    I have been stuck writing a story for three years that has to do with a gay character who was sexually assaulted without realising he was been exploited as a kid. I am fictionalising a part of my story growing up and I haven’t been able to complete it because the memories are scathing and leave me really sad. I am not willing to be vulnerable. It takes guts to embark on such tasks.

    Writing, however, is a craft and with constant practice one could channel emotions properly without feeling the need to be left bare and prone to the wills of ill emotions.

    • Simzah

      Wow. I’m sorry about your experience. And yes, you don’t necessarily have to be laid bare to write about emotions. Its the fastest way to master it though. Or you just become really really good at faking it.

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