When Something You Write Makes You Cry

I recently finished one of the saddest books I’ve ever written. Unusual for me, because most of my work is pretty upbeat. It might be intense or action packed, even hot and steamy, but not sad. I don’t mean depressing, because the story is one of hope and it has a happy ending. However, I had a lot of moments when I found myself in tears.

Crazy. I’m the one writing it, and it’s making me cry. Does that make sense? When we write something that moves us to tears, is that a fair judge of how our readers will be affected? Does it make us even crazier than we thought we were? Or is it something else?

I like to hope that what I’m writing creates an emotional response in my readers. I want my words to excite them, get their imaginations moving and energize their senses. A story is more than just words on a page. They become meaningless and dull if they don’t go somewhere. What if that somewhere is dark, murky, frightening? Or conversely, light, humorous, whimsical? Sometimes that place is sadness, remorse, resignation.

The story I wrote hasn’t really got a title yet, so let me give a brief synopsis. Kyle, a 34 year old single father, is still grieving after the death of his wife, Margo. She died from cancer five months prior to the beginning of the book. Haunted by his inability to ‘fix’ the situation and make her well, he buries himself in work and the responsibilities of raising three children alone. Seeing him heading toward an early grave himself, his boss (who is also a good friend) forces him to take a month off to get himself together.

At his boss’ insistence, Kyle books a cruise and takes his children and housekeeper/ friend, Carmelita, with him. The first night at dinner, he meets Emily. Beautiful and vivacious despite the fact that she’s recently finished chemo therapy, Emily captures his heart. His children love her, Carmelita likes her, everything is perfect – until he discovers that Emily, too, is dying. By the time he finds out, he’s already falling in love.

Kyle’s past comes back to haunt him and he makes a disastrous mistake, thus jeopardizing his relationship with Emily. Tortured by guilt and self-doubt, he falls into a very dark, emotional place. It is a story of regret, rebirth, renewed faith, resignation and remembrance. It also made me cry like crazy.

Have you ever written something that worked your emotions like the characters? Maybe you needed a huge box of tissues. Perhaps it made you laugh out loud? Did you feel the thrill of that first meeting or the joy of true love’s first kiss? Do you think this makes a fair assessment of reader reaction? Is our emotional involvement simply because we are so in tune with our characters?

Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions!

Dellani Oakes is the author of “Indian Summer” published by Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under fiction

6 responses to “When Something You Write Makes You Cry

  1. It sounds a wonderful book and I can see how it would make you, or me, cry. I think I get to share my characters’ emotions in writing, just as I might share them if someone else had written them. I don’t know if that means I write them well but I hope it does.

  2. I wrote a memoir about 10 years, a chronicle of my mother’s fight against Parkinson’s disease. I wrote it about two years after she’d passed away. And I think that was the right amount of time to wait because I felt I needed to give myself distance so that I could write the piece with the proper detachment.

    I firmly believe that a writer must allow the reader to enjoy a text, or relate to it, in their own way, which is not always the way in which they write a piece. Think of it in terms of an actor who draws upon personal experience in an emotional scene that may require tears. For all we know he or she is thinking about a pet dog they saw hit by a car when they were but six years old, but they’re playing a scene in which they’ve just lost their home as a result of the husband’s gambling.

    That memoir on my mother was picked up by Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine and I subsequently posted it to a blog of mine where it received a lot of comments by a Parkinson’s support group that had posted a link to it.

    And … I usually pull it out on Mother’s Day every year or two to give it a read, and fully 10 years have gone by since I wrote it and it still never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It’s probably the greatest gift I ever gave to my mother, to write her story, and that it impacts PD patients and care givers alike.

    So, in answer to this post, I think it’s essential, when writing an emotional scene, that the writer be moved by his or her own words. If they’re not, how can they expect others to be moved?

  3. R. Jeffreys


    It absolutely makes sense to me!

    I wrote an essay for Yankee Magazine (New England Memories) about losing my best friend to Leukemia. I cried all the way through writing and editing/revising it.

    I guess that piece for me was truly a labor of love and of the heart.

    Do our readers feel in some measure our personal emotions, which wind their way into our lives and words?


  4. dellanioakes

    I think you’re right, JC. If we weren’t in the business of engaging our readers, what’s the point of writing?

    Sheila, I think enjoying & appreciating your own writing is very important. I also believe that it helps us give more life to our characters.

  5. Dellani Oakes

    Jeff, I certainly hope so! Though I’m sure they won’t feel the same measure, I don’t think that they could possibly read something that emotionally charged without feeling something.

  6. christinehusom

    What a great story, Dellani and very sad, I can understand why it makes you cry! I get choked up and tears run down my face here and there when I’m writing something that touches me. Hopefully, my readers have a similar reaction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.