The Art Of Manipulating Emotions In Storytelling

The storyteller is the puppet master of emotions.

As a writer, you have the power to make your audience laugh whenever it pleases you, cause grown men to cry shamelessly, keep millions on the edge of reason, prevent couch junkies to switch channels, and grip people with fear.

A writer is the puppet master of emotions, the dictator of reason, and can make anything happen in a fictional reality where everything is possible and extreme gratification is your only goal, and the audience’s ultimate payoff and reward.

It is vital for the narrative drive to progress relentlessly and rapidly, and for story events to flow fluidly and form a cohesive whole so that the parts (scenes, sequences and acts/chapters) and the (story) are united as one.

The story must be well-paced and flow rhythmically, seducing the senses and evoking emotions, ranging from total delight to absolute fear.

The writer uses two tools to have ultimate control, setting Turning Points and Transitional Links into action, cleverly manipulating emotions and drawing an unsuspecting audience into a web of mystery and wonder.

The story becomes a tapestry of mixed emotions, and a melting pot of symbolism and subtext, allowing us to feel what’s happening, and experience the heartbeat of each moment, taking a meaningful journey on the roller coaster of dramatic or comedic action without interruptions or getting lost in translation.

This is the storyteller using ultimate power to manipulate emotions and have full control over both the characters and their captive audience.

The Art Of Composition forms an integral part of

The Write Journey course

Composition – the ordering and linking of scenes

Unity and Variety

A story, even when expressing chaos, must be unified. Unity is critical. Within this unity, the writer must induce as much variety as possible. You don’t want to hit the same note over and over again so that every scene sounds like every other.


The audience has two desires:

  • Serenity, harmony, peace and relaxation
  • Challenge, tension, danger, thrills

The writer must alternate between tension and relaxation. Once you have written scenes filled with suspense, you have to reduce the tension and switch to comedy or romance, a counterpointing mood that lowers the intensity so that the audience can catch its breath and reach for more energy. After retarding the pace, you build the progression in intensity and meaning.

Rhythm and tempo

In a well-told story, the progression of scenes and sequences accelerates the pace. The writer takes advantage of rhythm and tempo to progressively shorten scenes while the activity in them becomes brisker and brisker. You have to control rhythm and tempo. If you don’t, the film editor will.

  • Rhythm is set by the length of the scenes. How long are we in the same time and the same place? A typical two-hour feature will have forty to sixty scenes; on average a scene lasts two and a half minutes.
  • Tempo is the level of activity within the scene via dialogue, action or a combination. Lovers talking from pillow to pillow may have a slow tempo; a heated argument in a courtroom will have a high tempo.


How will the audience sense when a story genuinely progresses?

  • Social progression: Widen the impact of character actions on society.
  • Personal progression: The action is found in intimate relationships and the lives of the characters.
  • Symbolic progression: Symbolism is very compelling and invades the unconscious mind, touching us deeply; the story will begin with actions, locations and roles that are familiar; as the story progresses, images gather greater meaning, until at the end of the story the characters, events and settings stand for universal ideas.
  • Ironic progression: It sees life in duality and plays with paradoxical existence; verbal irony is found in the discrepancy between words and their meaning.