Month: January 2017

Writing sad scenes

by Ryan Casey from

Writing sad scenes can be one of the trickiest things to perfect.
It’s so tempting to just tell the reader that your protagonist ‘was sad’, or bring the tears out in an attempt to show the reader emotions.
Both should be avoided.

Hold back the tears…
I know what you’re thinking; we cry when we’re sad, right?

Wrong. Well, not really wrong. I mean, sure, it happens from time to time; just not at every little thing. We don’t cry when the lawnmower breaks down, or cry when we stub our toe. We fight the tears. We feel a growing lump in our throat, and a stinging in our eyes. Everything around us becomes irrelevant… see where I’m going with this?

By listing just a couple of the internal sensations usually associated with sadness, I think I’ve created a more effective expression of the emotion already. Crying is, believe it or not, hard to relate to in fiction. In anything other than the most perfect scene, it can come across as bewildering and out of place.

Only bring the tears out when the character is at an absolute breaking point.
Make tears seem like a desperate last resort; an act of frenzy in impossible circumstances. That way, by bottling the emotions for the rest of the novel, it’ll make for an even more satisfying – and touching – release when it comes to writing sad scenes.

In defence of the emotionally fragile…
“But what if my character is genuinely sensitive?”

Well, there are exceptions, of course. If your character is suffering for one reason or another, then tears are fine, as long as they are consistently implemented.

As a real-life example of how tears can be used to effect, take a scene from my What We Saw manuscript. Without giving too much away: Adam, the character who likes to come across as a little bit of a tough-nut, cries about something whilst lying in bed. Liam, the protagonist and narrator, is thrown by this, and does not know how to react. Adam isn’t aware that Liam has noticed him crying, so it makes for an interesting dynamic, whereby the reader is able to voyeuristically ‘spy’ on Adam’s emotional release at the same time as Liam.
Adam does have a very valid reason to cry much more than he does, of which I won’t go into yet (tease!), but I feel that the battle to contain and suppress his sadness ultimately makes for a more moving book than if he were breaking down every few minutes. Breaking down is tiresome, so avoid using it repeatedly.

Laughing Donkey
If you’re struggling to ‘show’ emotion, think about your own feelings.
This doesn’t just apply for writing sad scenes, but for other emotions, too. Do you always laugh when you’re happy, or do you sometimes just feel your lips quivering at the sides, resisting a smile? Do you really growl when you’re angry? Are you a tiger?

Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman have written a great book on how to show, and not tell, effectively. It’s kind of a thesaurus of emotional responses, so it can be a great resource if you’re trying to put across an emotion. Thanks to Stuart Meczes for the tip on this one! His debut novel, The Awakening, is free for a few days, by the way, so do check it out.

What have we learned about writing sad scenes today?
Hold back the tears when expressing emotion, and try to identify alternatives
Make sure your character is at a breaking point if they cry, for full effectiveness. Showing the repression of emotion is often more effective than showing emotion.

Alberta Sequeira


Getting Agents or Publishing Yourself


This decision has become a major problem with writers. Why? Today, a high percent of publishers want an agent to go through tons of query letters before they reach them. This way, the agent gets rid of what they call “Junk Mail.” Sad, because there might be a terrific story in that pile, but because if we don’t have the talent on how to word our description to our book, we lose out.

It’s bad enough we spend hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars on an editor, and now we’re put in the spot to pay someone to write your query or book proposal. We, as writers, spends unbelievable money without any guarantee our query letter, book proposals or manuscripts themselves, will even be read. It’s true when they say everyone makes money off the writer, except the writer.

The healthy writers, mentally and physically, are the ones who write for fun and not fame. They don’t go through the months or years with their manuscripts on their desk and blowing dust off them. They don’t wait around for someone to say after eternity, “I’d like to see your work.” I had one lucky reply ten years ago to only get another reply months later, “Thank you, but it’s not what we want to publish.”

Is it worth waiting? Yes, a well-known publisher is the frosting on the cake. Then you have to wait 1-2 years for the publication, the editors may ask you to cut-down 100 pages or so. If the book does not sell enough to their liking, they can discontinue publishing your book. What if they go out of business?

Benefits with a Publisher: They get your books into bookstores, give you some spotlights on websites, get your book into libraries or other locations, maybe set you up on a book tour or send you some advancement with money to cover the tour. Remember, that gift of advanced money comes out of your royalties…if you make any.

One positive thing with an agent or a publisher, they do want you to succeed. If you make money, they make money. You may be the nicest person they met, but it’s a business to them.

But no matter how you publish your book, you still have to do the promoting. If you don’t get weak knees and shortness of breath from fear, you can talk and make decent money at small locations. Sell yourself, not your book. If you know what you are talking about, your books will move off the table.

I was told my another successful author, charge something…anything for talks or any event. Other wise, they will not take you seriously as a professional writer. Everyone will want you to fill in their gap at an event for free.

Don’t be afraid to charge. You worked for your talent, get paid for it.

Alberta Sequeira

Purchase Alberta’s books at

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