Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias

The bookstore shelves sag with the weight of screenwriting books. Most of them teach only structure, which is the most basic aspect of storytelling and also the easiest to learn. There are many excellent books that tell you how long each act should be and where the story beats go. There are few that dare to tackle the one thing that makes a story worth telling: emotion.

WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT assumes a base knowledge of the three-act structure and story arc. As essential as that knowledge is, it’s not enough. Iglesias cautions that screenplays can be technically flawless, yet lack the depth of feeling that will move audiences. He isn’t talking about manipulating emotions in a shallow and cynical way. Rather, he shows how to use tools at your disposal to make sure that the audience feels the genuine emotion you intended to convey. After all, there is nothing worse than writing what you thought was a heartbreaking scene only to have your readers laugh; or worse, feel nothing at all.

The bulk of the book is a detailed discussion of how concept, theme, character, structure, description, and dialogue all work together to evoke emotion in the reader. Yes, I said reader. Although WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT is a screenwriting book, Iglesias explains  why the words on the page are as important as any visual effect on the screen. Each element gets its own chapter, which is full of solid technique, not fluffy theory. Every chapter is loaded with concrete examples from movies and television shows. As a result, I was able to apply the techniques to my own work right away.

My favorite was the chapter on dialogue. I learned more from this 50-page chapter than I’ve learned from entire books on the subject. Iglesias shows how powerful dialogue is. It can reveal character, emotion, and motivation. It can foreshadow, convey information, and so much more. It would be easy to get overwhelmed here, but Iglesias gives many examples of dialogue that works. He also shows how to avoid common pitfalls like meaningless small talk or dialogue that is stilted, predictable, or too “on the nose.”

WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT is a complement to–not a substitute for–the other how-to books on the shelves. For someone who has already mastered the basics of story structure, this book is a rocket booster. Although it’s a book for screenwriters, I would recommend it to novelists and short-story writers too. All forms of fiction are emotion-delivery vehicles, and Iglesias shows you exactly how to give readers the experience you want them to have.

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rating: 5 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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this book is best for: advanced writers

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I recommend this book

3 thoughts on “Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias

  1. This one sounds like a winner, if for no other reason than it brings the reader into focus for the writer. Yes, we want to tell a story, but a story is only ever half-finished until it gets a reader. I might even go so far as to say that a story is only half- finished until it gets *to* a reader on an emotional level.

    -aniko

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