Saturday, March 24, 2018

Writing with Emotion: Get Real with Your Readers

Rapper NF has slowly risen in fame over time. In fact, he is currently super popular - his hit song “Let You Down” is all over the radio, and millions upon millions of people are watching his music videos on YouTube.

But the question of all questions is this: Why? Why does everyone love his music? What is it about his songs that draws so many eager ears?

The more I listen to NF, the more I see the answer: It’s because his music is real. And because it is real, it has emotion. Because it has emotion, it has power.

We, as writers, want readers. We release our stories to the world in hopes that the world will like them, in hopes that they will resonate with whoever picks them up. The world seems to like NF’s music, and it certainly resonates with many, many listeners.

As a matter of fact, at least two characteristics of this particular artist’s music can be compared to good writing. To real, emotional, powerful writing.

Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

1. Pour you into your stories.

NF writes his lyrics based off real-life feelings and experiences. Take his song “How Could You Leave Us,” for example. The story behind the song is completely true, and it’s obvious how the experience pierces his heart. And because of that, it pierces the listener’s heart. (It stabs mine, in case you were wondering. It’s one of the only songs that has ever made me tear up.)

How could you leave so unexpected?
We waited, we waited
For you, but you just left us
We needed you, I needed you

I am of the firm belief that every writer pours little pieces of themselves into their writing, whether they realize it or not. But even so, I believe it is even more powerful to take advantage of it, to take something about yourself - like an experience - that means something fierce to you and incorporating that into your story. To base an entire scene, an entire character, an entire plot on that small flame of your heart.

Of course, everything must drive the story forward, so you don’t want to wedge it in when or where it doesn’t belong just to say you’ve done it. That’s not the way to go. But I’ve read books which are clearly the result of the author’s heart bleeding onto the pages.

In the case of NF, he doesn’t have to be subtle about sharing his experiences, and he isn’t. In fiction writing, however, you can’t suddenly switch to autobiography style. Even though you must weave it in indiscreetly, it doesn’t have to be any less powerful. It isn’t going to be. The inexplicable realness behind the words adds a layer of depth.

Get real with your readers.

I don't get it Mom, don't you want to watch your babies grow?
I guess pills are more important, all you have to say is "no"
But you won’t do it, will you?

2. Make every sentence matter.

NF’s lyrics pack a punch. Every single one of them means something, and that draws the listener in. (I know it’s hard for me to do something like chores while I’m listening to NF. Usually all I can do is sit there, close my eyes, and drink in the lyrics.)

I’m not saying you should find a DEEP meaning to pour into every single sentence. That’s kind of impossible. In fact, most sentences in a book are pretty normal. Nothing special, in a way. “I don’t know,” Bob said. << Not much, right? Thing is, though, it’s not so much about the sentence itself, but how you string multiple ones together. And it’s also about context. A normal sentence like “I don’t know,” Bob said can be full of meaning, all depending on its relationship with the previous sentence(s), and on the situation Bob is in.

In a good story, the impact of a sentence will make the reader eager to read the next sentence. And then that sentence will make them eager to read the next one. “Intro” is one of the many NF songs that draws me in like that - each lyric ties in with the ones before it in such a way that I’m eagerly awaiting the impact of the next one, and then the next one, and the next one, and so forth.

Giving specific tips on how to provide that desired effect is a bit tricky. A lot of it is instinct - stepping back, reading, and tweaking as your reader’s mind instructs. Which leads into the next piece of advice… Read read read! The more you read, the better idea you’ll get of how sentences can interact to make every one of them matter, to make each one pack a punch.

Rapping is not the same as writing, obviously, but as time goes on, the more I realize how different types of art can relate to one another. I remember seeing someone comment on NF’s music saying something along the lines of, “I was surprised when I saw that NF was Christian. Then I realized how clean his music is - it’s so powerful that I didn’t even notice he wasn’t cussing or singing about vulgar things.”

That resonated with me deeply. Whether you’re Christian or non-Christian, if you’re a Rebellious Writer, you are for clean writing. And I don’t know about you, but I want my stories to have that effect on people. I want them to be so drawn in that they’re not even paying attention to the fact that my writing isn’t filthy. I don’t know about you, but I want to pour my heart into my stories, and I want readers to be moved by that. I want my words and sentences to pulse with a heartbeat of their own.

I want to fill my readers’ hearts with an emotion that pulls them into the story - something that gets them thinking, maybe even something that changes their lives.

NF’s art does - has done - all of these things, which is why his music is so inspiring to me as a writer. I aspire to inspire like that, by pouring my heart into my stories, by being meaningful. And you know, it’s really nothing to stress about. Sit down in front of your work-in-progress ready to bleed your soul into it… and then watch it happen.

I put it all in the open
This is the way that I cope with all my emotion

~~ Lila Kims ~~
A follower of Jesus and a lover of words, Lila Kims has been writing stories since she was ten and reading books for as long as she can remember.  When she isn't busy having adventures in other worlds, she enjoys playing soccer, listening to Owl City, or simply gazing up at the sky.  One of her firm beliefs is that God always does amazing things in those willing to rebel against the norms of this world. You can visit her at her blog, 


  1. I see the name NF and I click really fast because it's NF! I love his music for a few reasons. 1) His moody atmosphere to music is kind of the mood I've discovered I like to write. 2) He achieves emotion and pain in music WITHOUT swearing and vulgarity. THAT'S AMAZING! So many rappers cuss and speak of things I won't say here and then there's NF who's on this whole other level. He's making waves because he's different and that's a good thing.

    Great post, Lila! Definitely inspiring. <3

    ~Ivie |Ivie Writes

    1. Haha, gotta love NF!! I love his music for those exact reasons as well! It's so nice to be able to listen to unique but clean rap. *nods* (except I don't really like rap except for NF *cough* xD)

      YES, NF is on a whole other level!!!

      Thank you so much, Ivie! <3

  2. This was one beautiful post, I love how you paralleled it to NF, because he really does make an incredibly powerful impact in his music without vulgarity and you don't even notice that, you're just so absorbed in what he's talking about. I can't agree more with post Lila. <333

    1. Awww, thank you, Anna! I'm so glad you liked it, and I definitely agree - his music is completely captivating. :D

      Thanks again, girl!! <3

  3. That is definitely what I do. Whenever my character is sad, I pull the emotion of sadness over myself. When there is humor I make myself feel embarrassed or whatever the character is feeling. If there is pain, love and hardship, I wade through all the emotion so I can more accurately put it on the page.
    Oh... and I'm about to get everybody mad at me, but rap does injustice to my Celtic music taste. If I hear rap, jazz, country rock and pretty much anything that you hear in the store (often including Christian Contemporary) I want to curl in a ball and plug my ears. I would rather listen to bagpipes, war drums, Gaelic singing, and all the rest of the Celtic stuff. I know I'm the odd one out there... ;) I enjoyed reading this post otherwise!!!

    1. GASP!!! FELLOW CELTIC PERSON!!! *tackle hugs* I'm so glad I'm not the only odd one in this bunch :).

      While I do have some other varied music tastes, Celtic is my go-to music for practically everything. Seriously, someone needs to create local Celtic stations on the radio. Everybody else gets a station, why not Celtics?!


    2. YES PLEASE!!! Because I know it wouldn't look nice to climb shuddering into the clothing rack at the store, I choose not to, but sometimes that is what the music makes me want to do. I find myself wishing they'd switch the tune to a Celtic piece. I'm still singing Suil a Ruin while everybody else is singing whatever it is that they are going to right now. ;)

    3. That's awesome, Erica! There's something beautiful about connecting yourself to your writing in such an emotional way. <3

      Lots of people don't like rap! I myself am not a big fan of it. Like, at all. NF is veeeery different, though, and so he's a big exception. It's so cool that you're into Celtic music!!! Don't be afraid to be the odd one out. ;)

      Thank you, Erica!

      (*is smiling at the fun conversation about Celtic music*)

  4. I have never actually listened to NF (because I have this thing against rap...) but I'm going to have to go check him out, now! There is definitely some rap out there that has meanings and doesn't give you a headache ;p Also, such a lovely post. "pour you into your writing," I so agree!!!

    1. He is a very clean rapper and raps about real life things that happen. I suggest Can you hold me, Let me down, and I'll keep on. Those are my go to's from him. I'm not a rap person either, but NF is the exception to that. XD

    2. I've been listening to him today, with no headache! Must say I like him. Will check out those songs, Ivie :)

    3. I usually have a thing against rap, actually. NF is an exception, because his music is so different! :D

      Thank you, Keturah, and I'm so glad you've been listening and enjoying!! And yes, Can You Hold Me and Let Me Down are really good ones. *nods* I'll have to check out I'll Keep On myself! xD

    4. I'll Keep On is life! It's one of my favorites from him.

      @Keturah: I'm so glad you like him. :D

  5. While I'm not a "rap" person, I definitely appreciate NF's attitude and the fact that he is a clean rapper.

    YES - writers do leave part of their soul in their works. We can't help it. It's who we are!
    I do need to get better at making every sentence be a punch. There are still some really flat stuff in my writing...

    Excellent post, Lila!! I loved it!


    1. YES, it's definitely who were are!! We can't help but slip little pieces of ourselves into our stories. :D (of course, as I mentioned in the post, we can take advantage of it too!)

      I'm sure you're writing isn't flat, Catherine, but absolutely - there are so many things all of us can improve on! :D

      Thank you so much, Catherine!! <3 <3

  6. This was so beautifully written--great job!

    I love NF's music, his song Why Did You Leave Us makes me cry every time.

    1. Aww, thanks, Gray!!

      Me too! And I knooooow, it makes me tear up. :'(

  7. *has no clue who NF is* *reads post anyway*

    I feel like a little bit of me gets put into each story I write. Usually not intentionally, but they often have hints of whatever I've been dealing with while writing that draft, be it prayer, perseverance, or just business. :)

    1. Haha, well, I'm glad you chose to read it! :D

      Yes, I do believe a little bit of every writer goes into their stories. And indeed, a lot of it isn't intentional - it just happens! Which is SO cool. :) And then there are the times when we can take advantage of it, which is powerful too!

      Thanks for commenting, Julian! <3


    *clears throat, tries to hide inner NF fangirl* Um, right, we're talking about writing and emotions. He's such a great example for this, I love how you picked him. I find litte bits and pieces of myself in my writing; I like to think of it as a trail of fairy dust I leave behind me. :)

    Love this post! <3

    1. *tries to hold in NF fangirl too* xD Thank you so much, Melissa! And YES, fairy dust!!! I've never really of it that way, but maybe I will now... :D

      Thanks again! <3