Get ready – the wonderful M.K. Stelmack is about to illicit an emotional response from you within her first five words. Thank you so much M.K for guest blogging about emotion during our Emotional Thesaurus Workshop!


Life isn’t good right now. My sister is bald, skeletal and terrified as she descends into the final stages of cancer. Our debt-to-income ratio is so bad bankruptcy would almost come as a relief.  My husband’s business dealings seem to be mostly with his lawyer.  Sickness. Financial stress. Legal difficulties.

If you know me, you might feel bad for me. More to the point, even if you’ve never heard of me nor ever will again, you might send your sympathies because perhaps you’re naturally inclined that way but more likely because my crap was once or—please let it not be so—is your crap. And you know how much it hurts, how wearing it is, how unjust it feels.

Of course, you might not feel that way if you thought I was a nasty piece of work who deserved misfortune. It’s really hard to feel bad for someone who habitually damages others. I have faults and hang-ups but no worse than anyone else, I’m thinking.  So let’s assume, whether you know me or not, you’re feeling sympathy right now. I’ve evoked an emotion.

So, good person + bad situation = emotion. All sorts of emotion–anger, disappointment, frustration, excitement, worry, tension, whatever. That’s why a story ends soon after the bad situation has been settled once and for all. Emotion is already ebbing away.  I don’t know about you but I reread a novel for the first three-quarters where it’s jampacked with the hurtling vases, hissy fits, narrowed eyes, dashes for freedom, gut clenches and—if I’m lucky—hot, unresolved sex.

An author who does emotion like nobody’s business is Kristen Ashley, a self-pubbed romance author. ( I was talking on Goodreads about my feelings about her writing. She is an appallingly formulaic writer. She’s written 23 books and of the sever I’ve read, all the heroines go “um, erm” or some other stuttering nonsense. The women are smartasses and the men are badasses; the women determine their moods by the labels they wear, the men slant looks and murmur “Babe.” Plot lines repeat: the woman gets kidnapped or shot at, there’s a killer/stalker on the loose and the men ‘deal’.  I swear some scenes could be cut and pasted.

I don’t care, I love her books. I pay bills and reread my fave scene in Lady Luck when Ty tells Lexie how he’s sorry but their life together was his dream. I call my sister and then read the scene in Motorcycle Man when Tyra tells Tack about how most beautiful stories in life are the most difficult to take.

The opening scene of Motorcycle Man is Tyra being kicked out of bed by who she thought was the man of her dreams. Ouch, ouch, ouch. The Humiliation of a Lifetime. Good Person (who doesn’t want the man of their dreams?) + Bad situation (in the bed of the wrong man) = Emotion (Shame). Sure, some scenes are overwrought but I admire how she lets it all hang out there.

I believe the key to her success is who she is. Her website displays her old works, her upcoming works and works she’s dreaming about. Her passion for her stories hits you in a gush of squealing energy.  When she chats about her stories as if she’s the reader, eager to get to her next story, all revved up about the ones to be released.  Squee, squee, squee!

So beyond all the fancy equations for the writing of emotion, it’s really about you as a person. Steena talks about that in her July 12th column, about how we can use our personal experiences to make a lasting scene. If you don’t feel the passion yourself, then it’s missing in the story, no matter how beautifully written or how inventive it is.  As simple as that. And as hard as that.

So, I challenge you: Where are you in your story? What little piece of you is in every scene?


You can find MK Stelmack at the following:!/moira.stelmack