by Christine Liu-Perkins
When I first heard about emotional resonance in nonfiction, I wondered what that meant. As a nonfiction writer, I thought about research, accuracy, and interesting details. I learned to develop a focus, experiment with structure, and seek creative ways to hook young readers’ attention. But emotional resonance? What is it? Is it important in nonfiction?
Editors look for manuscripts that touch the emotions of readers—nonfiction as well as fiction. Anna Sargeant of Sourcebooks eXplore said, “When I read a nonfiction manuscript, the first thing I gauge is not the facts or the subject matter, but what the book feels like. . . . facts stick better when tied to emotions.”
Sylvie Frank, now at Disney Hyperion, explained what she looks for a book: “If it’s a particularly heartfelt, re-readable book, a kid reader should have a question at the end. . . . It’s about how it lingers in the heart of the reader.”
Melissa Manlove of Chronicle Books explained that good nonfiction speaks to both the heart and the head. She gave examples of nonfiction books that take readers on an emotional journey. Author Kim Tomsic explained what she learned from Melissa about emotional resonance being like a buried treasure, which helped Kim revise her rejected manuscript into a touching book.
Interested in learning more? I recommend reading the wonderful series on Beth Anderson’s blog called “Mining for Heart.” It features blog posts by various authors about how they infused heart into their books (some nonfiction, some fiction).
In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to build emotional resonance into a manuscript.
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.