Pt. 3 Using Personal Experience and Applying What You’ve Learned

This is part three of the “Gut Punch your Audience with Emotion” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

Here are handy links to the first two parts:

In the first two parts of this presentation we discussed what components of storytelling are essential to create an “Ugly Cry” movie. Sound good to know? Go back and review if you haven’t read it yet – it’s awesome sauce.

In this part, we will discuss where to get those amazing raw and honest emotions to use when sucker punching your audience with the feels.

Digging Deep and Using Personal Experience


The best source material comes from you the creator. You’ve had experiences that have made you angry, made you cry, perhaps made you act irrational at times. You have regrets, soaring aspirations, and fears. Guess what? So do your characters. A good story will help the audience experience these emotions in safety, a great story will help them learn how to be stronger in the face of adversity.

This is why storytelling is amazing therapy. For example, as you study why your character is getting angry and what it feels like for him to experience rage, you have to break down the sensations for yourself through your own personal lens. This not only teaches you to recognize the first roots of anger in yourself, but it gives you the chance to calm down earlier.

Your characters will be facing their worst fears and learning how to overcome them. For you to be able to put this experience into words, you too must learn to face fears. The deeper you plunge yourself into your character and his motivations, the more likely you will take time to learn about the people around you in real life.

Not only is this a great way to learn greater self-awareness, but it is key to generating empathy for the people around you.



The holy grail of good stories is to make your audience feel deeply about what is happening to your main character. Throughout the course of this presentation we have discussed the key skills you will need to develop to be able to generate your own emotionally driven stories.

Here’s a quick sum up:

  • Build a relatable strong character
  • Give them a meaningful conflict
  • Inject intense emotion when appropriate
  • Use personal experience to guide you
  • Allow audience to recover between intense moments


Now it’s your turn! Pick a scene from a project you are currently working on, or one you’ve been thinking about writing. This should be a scene that has relatively high emotional tension.

decd1137522b6eb556299a946aee22f4First, consider your character and answer these questions, either in your head or written down:

  • What’s the one thing that would hurt your character the most?
  • Why should the audience love this character?
  • What heroic traits does this character possess to help him/her?

Next, identify the primary emotion that your character will be experiencing during this scene. Also consider what intensity of emotion he or she will be experiencing. Here’s a link to the post with the emotion spectrum color wheel, should you need it.

Now, identify an experience in your own life that matches the same emotion you just identified and spend a minute or two remembering those feelings.

You’re ready!

Set a timer for 15 minutes and free write your scene. Remember, free writing means to allow the words to flow without stopping to think or correct anything. Shove your inner editor in a drawer and BE FEARLESS.


I hope you enjoyed this presentation. I’d love to hear your experience with your free write and if you were able to tap into some deep emotion for your character. Tell me all about it in the comments below.

If you haven’t yet read the first two parts of this series, here again are the handy links:


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About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
This entry was posted in Emotional Impact, Personally Speaking, Presentation Notes, Writing Exercise, Writng Conferences and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pt. 3 Using Personal Experience and Applying What You’ve Learned

  1. Pingback: Pt 1 Visceral Experiences and Creating Award Winning Drama | My Literary Quest

  2. Pingback: Pt. 2 Engineering the Perfect Storm and Finding Balance | My Literary Quest

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