Welcome to The Bump House

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If it Cries, It Dies

You're right in the midst of a pivotal emotional scene & then - your MC blubbers. While this may be the appropriate response based on your set-up, if you tell readers she/he cried - your readers won't.

Show me the tears - There are two songs that come to mind when I think about this; Behind Blue Eyes by The Who & Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack (although, I dig the re-make). Both of these songs evoke a teary-eyed response every time & not because they bawl. Because they don't.

Five years ago, my son & I read 'The Vampire's Assistant' by Darren Shan. Mostly brutal vampiric stuff, but he dug it & he was reading. So, I did the only thing a mother can do & I listened to him recite it to me. I don't want to spoil it here - sufficed to say, we blubbered like fools at the very end. So much so that we had a hard time getting to the final words. The emotional connection overpowered us both. Not for the same reasons because we don't have the same perspectives, experiences, etc. And, not once were we told that the MC was crying.

Men cry, just not on paper - It's true. I've seen my father, my husband & my son do it. The reasons are varied, but the sentiment is still the same. The overwhelming outpouring when nothing else will do. Even the Alpha MC cries, he just does it in the white space. He doesn't want to blur the ink & leave any evidence you see. He's the Alpha; that's why.

Emotion clouds our judgment, makes us angry, shreds our dignity. But, it doesn't mean our characters have to tear poetically over it. William Wallace killed the English soldiers, Ben Hur drove the chariot of doom, Willy Wonka shook his head in disappointment. Sure, they wanted to cry - but they didn't.

Soap Opera Tears are Not Dramatic - Writers write drama, not melodrama. And soap opera heroines cry over everything! They roll through more mascara in one day than a herd of super models do in a year. It plays fake, unrealistic & over the big top.

Scarlett O'hara used tears to disarm & charm. Rhett didn't bite after a while & neither do we. If your heroine cries, your story dies. The reader cries for your character, not with them. And that's the way it should be.

Tears are the great emotional release they are because we don't do it every day. If your heroine cries every time she breaks a nail, your reader won't care when her dog dies, her boyfriend leaves & her truck won't start. Hmm, country song.

Happy Writing,



  1. You are brilliant. Would you believe that just this morning I wrote a bit and my character "wept." Even as I wrote it I knew I'd be editing it out later. She's going to be very sad, and maybe she is crying, but I think you are absolutely right that I shouldn't state it at loud, not for this this fairly minor thing early on in the story. I am SO glad I read this!

  2. Thanks so much Nicki. Glad I could help.