Writing Mini-Lessons: The Rule of Thoughts and Feelings

In a narrative, the reader needs someone to be with. If the narrative is a short story, the someone is the main character. If it’s a memoir, the someone is you, the writer.

Knowing your—or your main character’s—thoughts and feelings is crucial if a reader is going to be able to participate in your story. Personal reflections—thoughts and feelings—help make a story engaging: interesting to read and vicariously experience. And personal reflections in narratives are often the source of the best so what’s?—the themes and significances of your experiences or those of your main characters.

From now on, try to include thoughts and feelings as you draft. However, if you discover that you needed your first draft to get the details of the narrative right, then revise for thoughts and feelings by going back inside the story and discovering and capturing your or your main character’s responses to unfolding events.

When you revise for thoughts and feelings, you can insert asterisks at the points where readers might wonder, use a numbered list for creating notes of thoughts and feelings on a separate sheet of paper, or attach spider legs: strips of paper on which you’ve written thoughts and feelings to be included in the text in the next draft of the story.

Some Ways to Include Thoughts and Feelings


To see the impact of including thoughts and feelings, review a student’s drafts of his memoir.  Note how the piece evolves, paying particular attention to how the addition of thoughts and feelings allows readers to be with the writer.  The memoir is deeper—more personal to the writer and more interesting to readers.  All the writer did was find the points where readers needed to be able to think his thoughts and feel his feelings, starting with the title.

Thoughts and feelings is a technique for both drafting and revising stories.  From now on, try to include your thoughts and feelings as you go.  Later, when you re-read what you’ve written, use asterisks at points where you need to go inside yourself and tell what’s going on there.