Breakout session: Writing the Emotional Rollercoaster

Presented by Joan Kilby, a contemporary romance writer.  She is from Canada but lives in Melbourne, and many of her stories are either set in Australia or have Australian characters.

This was a good, practical crafting session.  Some of it covered ground that was similar to Valerie Parv’s session yesterday, but it was still good insight into the creative process.

The Emotional Journey


Steps to take your characters on for their emotional journey?


  • Start slow and build
  • Establish conflict and hint at connection
  • Emotional moments lighter, more on the surface
  • Establish hero and heroine’s connections to secondary characters (siblings, children, best friends, parents)


  • Growing attraction balanced by deepening conflict
  • Stakes raise as characters effect each other’s lives
  • Forward momentum balanced by setbacks
  • Love scenes need to be emotional.  Ultimate vulnerability
  • Sex complicates the relationship and raises the emotional stakes


  • Black moment – emotional low point of the story
  • Resolution – leap of faith.  Emotion not reason
  • The greater the emotional risk, the bigger the catharsis and greater emotional satisfaction for the reader

Her summary:

  • Have an emotionally charged premise
  • write realistic, emotion-based conflict.  Strong personal conflict creates intense emotions
  • create sympathetic, three-dimensional characters
  • Start slow, raise the stakes, and build to an emotional climax
  • Keep it real.  Use true emotions, honest reactions, and vulnerable characters
  • Write fresh, use body language, dialogue and sub-text to show emotion.

Overall I enjoyed this session.  While there wasn’t really any new information for me, it was nice to get new examples and perspective on this kind of thing.  I have not read any of Joan Kilby’s books so far, but I have a couple now so I will be sure to check them out.

2 thoughts on “Breakout session: Writing the Emotional Rollercoaster

  1. Should the second bullet point read “Establish conflict and hint at connection”? (I’m not generally inclined to pick on typoes, but this one obscures the meaning.)

Your thoughts and stuff

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

%d bloggers like this: