It’s a term that took me a long time to grasp during my development as a writer, mainly because I didn’t know whether I was getting it right until I was. And even now I struggle with it. I tend to go back and edit in emotional punch after I’ve written first draft. It just doesn’t come naturally to me the way it does to so many writers I know.
Emotional punch is exactly what it’s name implies. It’s literally slapping your reading with a hefty dose of empathy for your characters. The bigger the slap the greater impact your story will have. It’s like the X-factor in a scene. It makes it or breaks it and is very hard to define. You can usually see characterisation in a scene pretty easily. You also follow the building up of suspense without too much trouble. Even analysing the realism of the dialogue is perfectly doable. But emotional punch is like varnish. A writer has to paint it over everything to give that particular scene the chance to shine.
Emotional punch is tied to a lot of techniques. Showing rather than telling, good metaphors, deep point of view and even the writer’s voice or way of speaking.
Let me explain.
Show don’t tell: eg. It’s better to give Jane the sweats, then to say she’s nervous.
Metaphors: It’s also better to say, ”Jane’s heart dropped into her stomach” than to say she is nervous.
Dropping into deep point of view: Sometimes literally. OMG! Can I really do this?
Voice is different for everyone so I won’t go there.
So here’s the story without emotional punch : Jane was felt nervous. She didn’t know if she could achieve her goal.
And then the story with emotional punch : Sweat broke out on Jane’s brow as her heart dropped into her stomach. OMG! Can I really do this?
See what I mean? It’s all about hopping on one foot and rubbing your tummy at the same time.
But you gotta love a challenge.
Go find one!
I better get back to finishing this scene.