My last painting: Grapes&Porcelain
If you have read the first page of my novel as I presented in the "First Pages" article, two blog posts before, you may agree that it is engaging, yes, but it is almost empty. It has almost no details about the physical environment. The emotional state of the characters has not been exploited. Also, we have only a few sources to hook the readers' attention. Even worse, there may be no way to induce the reader to any process of self-identification. So, in this article, we are going to add the necessary enhancements to the original transcript to solve the issues mentioned above. We will empower these first lines as they should be, so they become undeniably engaging.
In painting, we first paint a gesso primer, then we paint the actual background, then we sketch the objects, and finally, we paint these objects one by one. You may think that we are writing as if we were painting, but before you complain, let me tell you that it simply works.

The engaging power of Colette's writing
In order to illustrate how a text can be improved, I will analyze the first page of "The Innocent Libertine" by Colette. Why Colette? Because I have always admired the ability of some writers to hypnotize me with their words to the point where I no longer care about the story. I just want to keep enjoying the magic of their techniques allowing my imagination to fly away. I also could have chosen, Mary Renault, but Colette seems to be more suitable for my purposes.
On the very first pages of Colette´s book, we can find the following paragraphs:
"Minne nibbles at the ivory penholder, so tilted over her notebook that only the silver of her blond hair and a tiny tip of the fine nose can be seen between two falling curls."
The description is cinematographic. In the same way, a movie director uses images of noses or ears to make the spectator identifies himself with the character, Colette does the same to her reader.
"... drop by drop the oil lamp counts the seconds, mom sighs. At each stitch, the needle sticks in the rubber where she embroiders a large neck for Minne. Outside, the sycamore trees on Berthier Boulevard are dripping with rain and the trolley cars of the extramural boulevard squeak musically on the rails."
Colette could have written: the lamp illuminates the room, the mother sews, it is raining, there are trolley cars moving, Colette writes instead: the lamp counts the seconds, the needle sticks in, the sycamore trees drip water and the trolley cars circulate on the rails. Colette makes the objects to appear as if they are animated by themselves.
"Mom cuts the embroidery thread. Upon hearing the clink of the scissors, Minnie's thin nose rises, the silver hairs separate and, stalking, two beautiful dark pupils appear."
"Mom cuts the embroidery thread" is the only direct description. The phrase that follows is totally unnecessary, but constitutes a cinematic description; it offers the reader a second chance to identify himself with Minne.
Colette describes the physiognomy of Minne little by little through the paragraphs.
"Minne takes one of the two oil lamps, kisses mom and climbs the stairs without fear of the black corners or the shadow of the staircase that grows and turns in front of her, nor the eighteen step that creaks lugubriously... At fourteen years and eight months, one no longer believes in ghosts."
This is very interesting. Colette expresses universal fears, only to say that Minne feels no fear. It is like a pretext for the reader to identify with the character. It would have been enough to say, she goes up the stairs without fear. The difference in the quality between this short phrase and the one she wrote is evident.
If we continue analyzing her writing as above, we may reach some conclusions. When Colette is talking about characters, she describes expressions, clothing, ornaments, facial features, attitudes, dramatic poses, choreographic movements. camera and photography direction. When it comes to environments, she does the same: she makes the objects act and expresses moods almost as if they were also characters.

The result on my first page.
I took the first page of my novel, as it appeared in my previous blog post, and applied what we have learned from Colette. The following is the result of this application. As you may see, this version is not only more descriptive and expressive, but it also has more hooks to engage the reader and cause him to identify with the characters. Thanks, dear Colette!
"Do you accuse me of being cruel?" He replied to his mother, suddenly leaning over her and moving his hands closer to his chest with equal violence. "Cruelty was cleaning my own vomit with my hair in the middle of the night when I was a sick child. Cruelty was leaving me without gifts at Christmas when my father was gone. Cruelty was breaking my clay toys with a broom. Cruelty was jumping on the lute that my father left me until it turned into splinters. Cruelty was to pretend, as many times as you could, to send away George with strangers until you see him scream in terror. Cruelty was to destroy the small pond that George had built and kill his fish. Cruelty..."
Philip paused and sighed. His jaws tightened even more. He would have liked to tear off the embroidered awning that hung from the ceiling of the sturdy, high bed. He wanted to smash the wooden steps that his mother uses to get onto the bed.
His mother, sunk in her padded velvet armchair, put a hand to her ear and exaggeratedly opened her eyes as she replied:
"Me? Philip ...!" She said, drawing out the sound of his name as much as she could. Frowning even more, she groaned: "But, why do you say these things? I have never done that!"
For a few seconds, the mother and son remained motionless facing each other. The livid maidens stared at the carpet of fine arabesques praying to become invisible so that the rage of neither, the mother nor the son, could detect them. With the exception of the dull hammering of a distant hoe, there was so much silence that one could hear the flies around the potty, inside the bedside table.
"If I were you, mother" Philip continued, clenching his fists until he felt the constriction. "I would not use the word cruelty until the end of my days, which in your case are not so many."
His mother put her hands on her head, sliding them over her white hair until resting them on the back of her neck. A couple of maidens rushed to help her. Philip raised his chin, making his cropped beard appeared even more pointed. He gave his mother one last look. He slowly turned his head towards the long bucolic tapestry that covered the wall behind the bed. His gaze swept with contempt over the span of the wide bedroom whose dark corners hid what they housed. His inspection was intercepted by a thread of golden light that had slipped through the curtains and revealed the dust they were breathing. The smell of dirty, old, and stored clothes; the acidified stench of miasmas from a decrepit occupant enveloped everyone. For a moment, his inclement eyes that continued scrutinizing were merciless with the old carved crib that his mother kept stubbornly and that had sheltered her two babies, Philip's early dead sisters.

One recommendation.
As you may imagine, there are more key recommendations for adding emotion to your writing and not only from Colette. It is not my intention to make a textbook on the subject in the limited space of an article. Fortunately, I came across an excellent book, written by Donald Maass​, that explains the subject of emotion in writing much better than me. I was especially impressed with the author's knowledge of the writer's nature, exhibited in the last chapters. It is populated with wise thoughts to the point, it was difficult for me to choose my favorite one: "Don't give me easy reading; give me the best of you. When you do, it becomes the best of me, too." I highly recommend this book as a continuation of this article: