How To Correctly Use Emotion To Create Drama In Your Article


I raced madly.

I raced madly, but I didn't care.

I raced madly, but I was too excited.

I raced madly, but something was gnawing inside of me. Something was about to go wrong.

I raced madly, but I couldn't shake the depression.

So what's the difference between the first line and all the rest?

Well, yes the first line is shorter. But it also lacks emotion. And while facts give you um, the facts, they don't tell us how you feel. In any given situation, ten people getting the same bowl of soup will respond in ten incredibly different ways.

I saw the bowl of soup and my heart sank.

I saw the bowl of soup and it flooded me with happy childhood memories.

I saw the bowl of soup and I was surprised how hungry I felt.

I saw the bowl of soup, but a feeling of hesitancy crept into my being.

I saw the bowl of soup, and immediately felt overwhelmed.

Yes, you get it, don't you?

The bowl of soup isn't what the brain is searching for in the story. The brain is searching for the expression on your face. This search is embedded in who we are as human beings. When my niece Keira (she's three, almost four years old) gets a shout from her mother, she almost always scans her mother's face instantly.

What's the reading on her mother's face?

Is she angry?

Is she annoyed?

Is she frustrated?

Is she furious?

Is she about to going bananas in a second?

The reader of your article needs to know what Keira can see

They need to know not just what the event was all about, but why it was important. And how it was important. And the biggest clue comes from the emotion that follows the statement. Or the emotion that precedes the statement.

So let's jump in with a few examples...

Follows the statement:

Example 1: There she was, the girl I so cared for. And yet, there was a sense of disgust.

Example 2: There she was, the girl I so cared for, and my heart lit up like the fourth of July.

Example 3: There she was, the girl I so cared for. And then she was gone. I was frantic.

But you can create the scene by using emotion as a pre-cursor

Example 1: Little did I know that I would be disgusted. After all this was the girl I cared for very deeply.

Example 2: I wasn't expecting that sudden burst of happiness on this gloomy day. But as I rounded the corner, there she was-the girl I cared for very deeply.

Example 3: There was nothing to suggest that I'd be frantic in a second. Because right there in front of me was the girl I cared for.

And so, the emotion sets the scene

Sometimes preceding the event. Sometimes after the event has occurred. The event itself is just an event. What makes it burst into flame is the emotion that surges through our system as a result of experiencing that event.

And then of course, we can choose to bring in the emotion earlier, or let in hang a bit behind and then whiplash the event with its suddenness.

But of course, you can overdo the emotions

Yes, the emotions provide the roller coaster that leads the reader through the article. And especially so, when you're telling a story. But you can't keep going on and on, line after line with emotions. Instead you bring in the emotion, and let the reader feel the happiness, sadness, disgust etc.

Sadness, depression etc. tends to linger a lot longer, and it's ok to keep it going for a little while. Happiness, fear- they're emotions that are fleeting. That speed through faster than a speeding bullet.

So yes, you drive the pace

And you drive it with the emotions.

Because ten people can drink soup.

And every one of those folks feel totally differently about the soup.

A soup is a soup is a soup.

Until you add a dash of emotion. Maybe two dashes. You decide 


Sean de Souza


15+ years ago, fresh out of college with a degree in accounting Sean de Souza joined an advertising agency where he *met* Leo Burnett, a man who had spent his lifetime in the hard trenches of communication and advertising.

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