Regardless of the medium, your reader is not interested in what your character is feeling.


In fact, if you tell your reader that Bill felt sad, dejected, elated, euphoric, or glum, your reader will begin to feel irritated.

Why? Because in the context of story, feelings don’t mean anything, and the purpose of story is to convey meaning. Our challenge as writers is to translate feeling into experience.

This is why I teach story structure as an experiential model rather than as a conceptual model. When we place our focus on the key experiences that lead to our hero’s transformation, our plot begins to emerge. Consider the following words: Decision, Hope, Temptation, Suffering, Surrender, Action, Choice, Peace. These are experiences, and there are infinitely more. Happy, Sad, Glum, Jolly, Angry; these are feelings. Sadness is felt, while Suffering is experienced.

Feelings are transient. In the context of story they mean absolutely nothing, and if you tell us what your character is feeling, your reader will be forced to supply meaning, which they will base on their personal experience. This leads to confusion.

Experience is universal. We all understand the nature of an experience, because at the heart of EVERY experience lies a dilemma. A dilemma contains a powerful want and a false belief. For example: The dilemma of peace might be a desire to resolve conflict through not speaking one’s truth. In an attempt to experience true peace, one must struggle with the tension between wanting to get along with someone while allowing their voice to be heard. Through this struggle all sorts of feelings will arise, but the feelings are irrelevant. Your reader is going to feel all sorts of feelings through your characters’ experiences.

When you experience temptation, you might feel scared, sad, happy, or angry, and you might even feel all of these things at the same time. By exploring the nature of your protagonist’s temptation, you are immediately transported to your character’s experience and an image or situation arises. It is through the discovery of these images and situations that plot is revealed.