Evoking emotions in readers – Linda Green

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By Linda Green

Moving a reader emotionally is the most important thing for me as a writer. Probably because it’s the most important thing for me as a reader. My favourite novels are one which have reduced me to tears, made me laugh or, ideally, a combination of the two. ♥

Five of my first six novels were essentially concerned with relationships. That being said, they didn’t fit neatly into any category. They weren’t ‘romantic’ in nature. They included gritty subjects such as domestic violence, an attempted suicide and a husband in a coma. But they also had plenty of humorous moments – albeit often rather dark humour.

When I had the idea for my seventh novel, While My Eyes Were Closed, which centres on the abduction of a four-year-old girl from a park, I knew it would be considered a switch in genres for me to write what was, essentially, a psychological thriller. But I already knew that it was still going to be a novel which focused very much on relationships, although in this case, it was going to be maternal relationships which were at the heart of it.

If I read a crime novel or police procedural, I want something more than a straightforward whodunnit or simply to discover what the twist is. I want to feel emotionally involved with the characters. And if I don’t, it doesn’t matter how well-written it is or how good the twist is, there is a danger it will leave me cold.

In terms of psychological thrillers, my interest is in the psychology of human relationships and the backgrounds of characters which may lead them to commit a criminal act. This very much stems from my background as a journalist, when I would often be interviewing the victims of crime or someone who had found themselves involved in a traumatic event. People fascinate me and I want fascinating characters to pull me into their stories.

So when, for my seventh novel, I had the idea of writing about the abduction of a little girl from a park, I knew I wanted to focus on the impact of that abduction on the mother of the child and examine why an older woman may abduct a child. I wanted to write an emotional thriller with heart. It was never going to be a ‘whodunnit’ but much more of a ‘whyshedunnit’. And I wanted it to break hearts.

I cried several times while writing While My Eyes Were Closed, which, as far as I am concerned, is a very good thing. If the characters don’t move me emotionally, how can I hope for them to move readers?

My next novel After I’ve Gone was very much in the same vein. Jess, in her twenties, discovers one day that her Facebook timeline has skipped forward 18 months to a day when loved ones are posting tributes to her, following her death. Yes, there was a crime at the heart of the story, but it very much centred on the human responses to that crime; the relationships between Jess and her father, Jess and her best friend and Jess and her new boyfriend. I wanted to explore domestic violence in a way which highlighted the human cost to everyone involved.

And in my new novel, The Last Thing She Told Me, it’s the relationships between the four generations of women in the same family which take centre stage. Moments before she dies, great-grandmother Betty tells her grand-daughter Nicola that there are babies at the bottom of the garden. At first, Nicola thinks she is confused and must be talking about her fairy statues. But when Nicola’s daughter Maisie finds something in Betty’s back-garden, Nicola knows something sinister has taken place.

Nicola is determined to uncover the truth, but it soon becomes apparent that Betty’s secret is not the only one which needs uncovering. It is a novel about the way women have been made to feel shame and the terrible burden that has placed on them. It is a dark tale and deals with difficult subject matter, but I hope it is the strength the characters have shown in dealing with the heartbreak in their lives, that leaves a lasting impression on readers.

Linda Green is a former newspaper reporter and the bestselling author of nine novels. She lives in West Yorkshire with her husband and son. The Last Thing She Told Me is published in paperback by Quercus Books on March 7.


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