When writers try to increase the emotional impact of their stories, they usually resort to dramatic wording. And so sweat no longer forms, it drenches; heart no longer beats, it races; and the pain, the pain is always unbearable. Unfortunately, such exaggerated expressions have the opposite effect on the reader because that is not how human beings experience the world. Even in the most extreme of conditions, the progression of experience is linear.

Say you left a long hot shower and stepped outside, only to find yourself in the frozen wastes of Siberia, or the cold vacuum of space. Even then, you wouldn’t freeze in an instant. Rather, you’d feel your body heat escaping you like steam from under a lifted lid of a cooking pot. You’d try to hug yourself, curl into a fetal position, hold the last warm breath you had in your life, but you’d be powerless against the cold. You might not even shiver before your freeze.

If, in the space of two or three paragraphs, you’d like your readers to experience icy cold sweat and anger that makes their blood boil, you need to let them experience linear progression that leads through these states. Anything else will sound odd and wildly exaggerated.

The human experience is essentially linear. That’s why you need to let your readers climb up and down slopes of emotions and sensations, rather than ask them to jump between peaks.

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