7 Keys to Unlock the Emotional Power of your Characters

The emotional power of a story is found in the protagonist’s yearnings and aspirations.

For your story to pack an emotional wallop, your main character must have compelling personal desire for a significant goal.

Think of an objective your main character could desperately yearn for. How can this longing become an unquenchable desire? Something your character feels intensely enough about to constantly move your story forward despite the setbacks, obstacles and opposition you create.

We have developed a list To help you harness your characters emotions and bring them to life for your readers. You can download that list here

Your character’s passion becomes the driving force for your character’s actions and the emotional power of your story.

Your readers must care about our protagonist’s success and struggle along with them as your story unfolds. It is essential your readers connect to this longing. The yearning we choose, must have emotional appeal for your readers. The longing should be sincere and touch the reader in a heartfelt way.

Here are Seven Very Human Desires That Will Create Emotional Power for Your Story.

Desires Your Readers Will Relate to.

Does your Story Develop Personal Desires?

Private Stakes Have Emotional Power

    #1 Desire for Romance.

Example: Fred offered a comfortable relationship, but Sarah wanted more. She wanted romance, excitement, chemistry. She would find a man that would thrill her soul, or she would have no man. Sarah refused to settle for comfortable.

      #2 Desire to survive.survival emotional power

Example: The chemo treatments are tearing his body and mind apart. The sickness and pain are unbearable, but Jacob is determined to endure. He will not succumb to his broken body so long as his heart remains strong. He can’t leave her alone.

Does Your Hero’s Desire Affect the Community?

Public Stakes have Emotional Power

The longing will become more significant and powerful if the goal is also important to the Community. Include secondary characters who support your hero’s goal.

 #3 Desire to Help Others volunteer emotional poser

Example: How will we keep the hospital open? We need supplies. We need more nurses, more doctors. The refugees are coming to us malnourished and sick with exhaustion. We have so little to offer them. The children, so thin, breaks my heart. So many of the little ones die. Almost every night I go to bed in tears. What can we do?  

 #4 Desire to Save the world.


Example: The thought ambushed him. What do you mean you don’t know where the missiles are? They are armed with nuclear warheads, just one could destroy New York City and parts of Jersey. We must find them. In the wrong hands, they could kill millions and possibly start a world war.

We have created a list of words and phrases the will help you harness your characters emotions and reveal them to your readers. Download the list to give you inspiration.

Does Your Story have Emotional Complications?

Inner Conflict Adds Emotional Power.

Our protagonist yearnings must be strong enough to motivate them to overcome all the challenges you (the author) put in their path. A strong antagonist can make a story more intriguing and our hero’s goal more daunting. The complications will add emotional power to your character..

Readers love a story filled with souring highs and piercing regrets. To accomplish this, give your hero/in a difficult task. Then make that task seem impossible. Find obstacles and opposition for your protagonist to overcome. It will take a strong character to avoid the temptation to quit.

Create conflicting subconscious motivations. Make the decision to reach that goal, emotionally complicated and you will have a sensational rollercoaster your readers will love.

It’s obvious once you think about it. You want your protagonist to have inner conflict

What kinds of inner conflict can you create for your main characters?

#5 Desire to Succeed

The journey to success must fascinate your reader. Give your reader details about the struggle. Explain the pain your character feels as they meet the obstacles you place in their path.

Each step forward followed by two steps back will increase the emotional power of your story.

Example: Travis knew climbing Mount Everest would be a challenge. He had set his heart on the goal, five years ago. Now, three-quarters to the top, everyone in the group is sick. Travis must decide he if wants to go on alone with the guide or return to base camp.

You want your hero/in’s success to make your reader feel like cheering

  #6 Desire for Justice or to Know the Truth.justice emotional power

This is the foundation for most mysteries. The emotional power comes from the determination of your character to know the truth. To keep searching.

Example: The room was full of people, someone had to have seen the murder. No one was willing to speak up, they were all afraid. The detective knew who they were afraid of. He did not blame them.

Yet, he kept asking, hoping for any clue, even a small one.

#7 Desire for Fame.

Fame can be a wicked task master. Always dangling hopes slightly out of reach.

The emotional power comes from your character not giving up. Always taking one more step.

Example: The Recording Studio had promised them a contract. Dan was sick. The Studio had reneged on their offer. All their promises had evaporated along with his band’s hopes. Should Jimmy become a solo act and leave his friends behind?

Your story should be about your character’s desires and the decisions they make to achieve them.
Patty Robinson


Can you think of any other motivations that could add emotional power to a story?

Tell us what you think. Leave a comment. We would love to chat.

Happy Writing!

John & Patty                          @writingagreatbook.com 2021