Emotions are the bridge between author and reader, but it’s not a simple as using words like sad, happy, excited, etc.
To elicit emotion in a reader as a writer we have to delve into our own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. We can write “Jack was sad.” Or “Jack felt sad.” But it is only a good tool for teaching children how to identify emotion. We have to show the reader how Jack feels, not just tell them.
To accomplish this feat with words we have to reach into ourselves and write from the heart.
The ride to work was hard for Jack. Thoughts of his friend continued to flow through his mind like a running faucet. The memories of Greg, once filled with joy, now brought tears to his eyes and pain to his chest. He felt the hollow, empty pit, in his stomach that had plagued him since he heard the news. He pulled over, unable to contain the rage and pain of his loss any longer and screamed. His grip tight on the steering wheel, he screamed with everything he could push out of his lungs while the tears ran down his cheeks.
This is unedited, totally raw, work. A recap of my very recent experience of losing a friend. Even now, as I write this, the emotions are rising up inside me threatening to break through and consume me.
We writers have to be brave enough to reach into our own emotions, and past, to illustrate effectively how our characters are feeling. It can be scary, and if you go too far, it can be hard to return from that place. This is the greatest peril we face as writers. To revisit the pain and suffering either long since passed, or incredibly recent, is also a good way to overcome and heal from these tragedies.
Always remember that your characters are people too. They think and feel, are flawed and have vices. No one is perfect, not even superheroes.
The best advice I can give anyone when it comes to making a character real is always to reach inside themself and put a piece, no matter how small, into that character.
Always write from the heart.