How Can I Make Readers Cry?


Dear Boo-Hoo…

A cathartic cry is a whole story in the making; no single plot event triggers it. Examine your entire story to be sure every plot point amps up emotional tension. Since plot serves character arcs in romances, events should pierce the characters’ deepest fears and most passionate hopes repeatedly. Does Female Lead hope to vanquish Bad Guy by herself but fear that Male Lead wants to take over? Have her misread his offers to help as attempts to control. She fears being insignificant or thought incapable. Then let her reconsider, get hopeful about him, only to doubt again because she always returns to that fear. Each time she opens up, sock her in that fear so she scurries inside herself again. Keep the characters hopeful or determined enough to keep opening up until finally you don’t sock them but let them have what they’ve earned. In this case, Female Lead will see that her guy wants to be a partner, not the power holder. Hopes and fears are universal, so readers relate to them. Emotion lurks in that link— attacking it is to attack readers, making them vulnerable and game for a good cry.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. You know your characters more than what you are getting across to your readers, hence your tears, but not theirs.

    Look at the books that make you cry and analyze what the writers did. I think I cry when I really care about a character and their situation is tear-worthy.

    • Thanks for that advice, Sue. Important to look for ways to make the readers care about your characters as much as you do.

  2. I would argue that even thrillers can have someone cry. Or better yet, almost cry, want to cry, but forcibly not crying, which can be even more powerful than tears. I remember once taking an acting course and the perennial question came up, “How do you cry on cue?”. Why that interests so many I never understood. Anyway, the answer was enlightening. You try as hard as you can not to cry, and if you are truly invested in the emotions, you won’t be able to stop yourself from shedding a tear or too. This goes for writing our characters.

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