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The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass

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Chapter 2

Inner Versus Outer

There are three primary paths to producing an emotional response in readers. The first is to report what characters are feeling so effectively that readers feel something too. This is inner mode, the telling of emotions. As though talking with friends over coffee, we nod, furrow our brows, gasp, protest, wonder, and ask questions as if the character’s feelings were our own.

The second is to provoke in readers what characters may be feeling by implying their inner state through external action. This is outer mode, the showing of emotions. Like billiard balls colliding, the theory goes, a character’s actions transfer an emotional impact to the reader, who feels it with equal force, and the reader caroms across the table. ...

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