What is a visceral response?

Visceral. Don’t you just love that word? A Judge’s comments that you need more visceral responses in your submission. A professional editor adds the comment, needs more visceral in your manuscript.

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There is no way you’re going to ask what it means. Don’t want anyone to discover you’re a novice, after all.

Now here’s your chance to find out. No one will notice you reading this on your phone.

After checking into several dictionaries, this adjective is used to describe things you feel in your gut, intuition, not a rational explanation, but you feel you know what’s best.

Visceral is derived from the word viscera. This refers to internal organs.

It’s not just a gut feeling, but a physical response to your environment. One beyond your control. Delilah James, the main character in my upcoming July 2021 release, Rescuing Her Heart was an abused wife. Every look, touch, and tone from Jed Holt, my hero, and any other male causes a visceral response. Her stomach tightens, her throat dries out, and at one point she faints. All involuntary responses.

Visceral responses are beyond your control. Think of a dirty diaper creating a gag response. Someone vomiting, causing others to do the same. Involuntary responses to stimulus.

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Describing visceral responses  adds to deep POV. Rather than saying, she hated Mortemer. You could write, Sharon’s hand fisted, causing the muscles in her forearm to ache when Mortemer entered the room.

Mary jerked back from the edge of the railing as light-headedness overtook her.  

With this sentence we don’t need to explain she is afraid of heights.

John’s face remained neutral, but his gut burned at Sherman’s remark. “I’m hooking up with Sally tonight.”

We know outwardly he is trying to be nonchalant, but he’s really upset.

Carol’s sweaty palms slipped off the golf club. She paused to wipe them on her shorts, before resuming the game of mini-golf.

Sweaty palms signals the reader she’s nervous. Did you want to wipe your hands on your pants just reading those words?

These are examples of visceral responses. (Although there are many better ones in print.)

They turn a flat character into a three-dimensional one.

The reader is experiencing what the character is feeling.

Visceral responses are so much more colorful than saying he had a panic attack.

Instead an author can add beads of sweat forming on his brow, chest tightening, breathing shallow, heart racing. He may he struggle to sit down. His shaky hand presses against his chest. His mind’s foggy or racing with thoughts of a past trauma. He might even roll up into the fetal position.

Love can be described as a tingle running down her arm, heart racing, warmth on her cheeks. And there are many more.

Past experiences are recorded in our brain and those memories effect, how we respond to people and situations around us. Your characters should do the same.

So, now you know. You can wipe those beads of sweat off your brow and grab a glass of water for your parched throat.

What are some of your favorite visceral responses to write?

Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder. Preordering is a great way to get your copy as soon as it ready and it helps with my sales numbers out the gate.

As her husband’s evil deeds and abuse haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love?

On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not.

Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her.

Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

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