Name A Book Or Movie That will Make You Cry



Simple enough, huh?

When you get somebody to be honest about this, you learn about them. When you’re honest about this yourself, you learn about you.

When you dissect it, you learn about writing.

What the author or screenwriter did to make you cry was a series of repeatable steps that you can learn to do for your stories.

Janice Hardy mentioned 5 Common Elements to Likable Characters

  • They show compassion or empathy
  • They have strength or fortitude
  • They display a talent or skill
  • They’re funny or entertaining
  • They’re broken in some fashion
  • They have a dream

(Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, April 30, 2014 That looks like six to me…

After you like a character, when they feel pain, you sympathize. When they are emotionally distraught, you are.

When they cry, you cry.

You gonna argue with Robert Frost?
You gonna argue with Robert Frost?

So, think about what made you like the character, and then the steps that got you there. Odds are it’ll be some of Janice’s five.

Also, if other characters like your character, the reader will. If they look up to him, readers will see that.

Then think about the steps involved in making you want to cry for the character.

If you look at two or three movies, you’ll assemble the steps to likability that work for you, and the second set of steps that made you cry. That’s a powerful tool to deliver in any story, and readers tend to remember it. After all, you didn’t need an hour to come up with a story that made you cry, did you?

So? What books or movies made you cry?


Your humble host.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

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65 thoughts on “Name A Book Or Movie That will Make You Cry

    1. Jean! A classic tearjerker!

      I’ve only heard about The Notebook, as I understand actually watching it will cause revocation of my man card, but I assume you like the characters – so what WAS it about them that made you like them? And then what was it that made you cry? What’s the essence of the pivotal scene?

      1. My mother-in-law, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, looks very like the lady in the movie, so every time I watch it I think of her. It’s the love that a long-term partner has for a mate, who is going through such a dreadful illness, that comes through in the storyline. There’s this one scene when she comes back to him and knows him, for just a short while. You can see how much the connection means to him. You should secretly watch that movie. I promise, I won’t breathe a word to anyone. 😉 Or read the book on a kindle so nobody can see the cover.

  1. dr. zhivago, the english patient, romeo and juliet – i love the characters and never stop wishing for a different ending in each of them, no matter how many times i see or read them.

    1. I’ve seen every one of those – no threat of man card revocation since 2 of the 3 have wars going on and Romeo kills like 5 people in R&J.

      Did I cry at Dr Zhivago? Maybe at the end, when the little girl was thought to be the daughter. Maybe when the lovers were not able to be together.

      At The English Patient? I did not. Didn’t care for that one, really. And R&J everybody knows so well it’s hard to get caught up in the moment…

      But what would you say was the pivotal scene in one of these that made you tear up?

      1. zhivago – when he was on the bus, saw her on the sidewalk, yelled to her, but she didn’t hear him, and he died trying to chase her.

        english patient – the moment in the cave when she told him that she had never stopped loving him and he had no idea before, then she died in his arms.

        r and j – when they each discovered the truth too late, about the tragic death of the other.

        what these all have in common for me, is that in each scene, the characters realized something powerful and stunningly emotional, a moment of truth, but the epiphany came too late. there loves were all very real and without end and it was all incredibly tragic.

        1. Yep. Those are awesome. That way of doing it so we readers/moviewatchers know and the other character doesn’t is like an eternal unscratched it for us but much more for the characters. Great examples!

  2. The fault in our stars, Me before you, Dear John (Movie), P.S. I love you, Titanic, One day… and so many more. Love them, and hate them too for being so heartbreakingly sad.
    PS. By the way, just to be annoying, there are actually 6 common elements not 5 😀

    1. Wow, Cassandra… I don’t know any of these! (BTW, I count six also, but I’m going to assume Janice meant a dream was a subset of fortitude.)

      Well, I saw Titanic. Let’s talk about that one.

      In Titanic, a poor kid saves a socialite from suicide and ends up romancing her and bedding her. At the end they cannot be together and he dies in the frigid water trying to assure her everything will be all right.

      So, there, it’s the part where they can’t be together, right, that makes it sad? The realization that just as you are starting to really fall for somebody, they are taken away? That, I think, had the “not a dry eye in the house” thing.

      1. Yep, definitely. In all those books/movies, it’s about losing someone you love and no longer being able to be with them. And it’s true that the person that dies is always so brave and wonderful and you get so attached to him/her that it’s even more heart-breaking when they die. I think the dying thing and losing someone you love forever is what does it for me and I can see how in most books and movies it does follow all or some of the 5 (or 6 🙂 ) common elements. Interesting.

    2. Oh. “Me Before You” Don’t even get me started on THAT! I was crying like a baby at the beach while reading that book–I will definitely bring tissues to the movie when the movie comes out!

        1. It’s that first kiss after the long chase Amelie had for Nino. She loved him from afar but was afraid to get close. Anelie wanted to help everybody but could not help herself. I’m misting……

    1. Hmm… I saw that. Fast forwarded through a lot, I’ll be honest. Can’t remember that much, but my wife saw it first and she liked it.

      What was the pivotal scene there that made you cry?

        1. Thank you!

          You’re not alone about Life of Pi. I think everybody else found it the way you did. Probably if I didn’t fast forward through it, I might have. Let’s blame that. I think i was sleep deprived from a small child not sleeping through the night. Fires. Floods. Something.

          Glad you liked the post. I think these scenes and character traits are little building blocks we can understand and emulate in our own writing, to help us craft better stories. While it’s not exactly a formula, it’s not rocket science, either. I plan on using this common theme, if we can call it that, in my latest WIP, for an unforgettable ending. I have written some unforgettable characters, and my endings are witty and solid, but to create an unforgettable tearjerker ending, THAT would really be something!

          1. I think another extremely emotional scene for me was from and old movie, Imitation of Life…the story of a mixed raced young woman who denies her black mother. I did cry out loud.

  3. “Angels in the Outfield” gets me every time. I can’t even watch the previews without blubbering. When that little boy pretends he sees an angel with Tony Danza . . .

    1. I didn’t see that one, but most Tony Danza movies would make me cry if I had to watch them. That’s probably not what you mean, though.

      Okay, I’ll check it out. I’m sure it’s on demand somewhere in DVR land.

      I’m guessing empathy with the little kid is what gets you?

      1. Okay, UPDATE: I looked it up online and the freaking Wikipedia description had me tearing up! I’ll have to wait for my wife to go out of town again and put the kid to bed early to watch that one. Can’t be blubbering with them around.

        Something about baseball and tears. I thought there was no crying in baseball. Didn’t Tom Hanks see Field Of Dreams or Angels In The Outfield???

      2. Tony Danza actually has a small part in this one. What breaks my heart is that moment when the little boy understands that this will be that character’s last game, . . . he finally realizes that it’s not all about HIM, or what he wants, or even about winning. That look on his face when he stands up to give the signal that he sees an angel with Danza’s character . . . oh, the feels!

        I also go to pieces in “Heart & Souls” when Robert Downey hugs the cop and sings that lullaby. It’s a Mom thing. 🙂

        1. See, I thought I baited you a little because we talked about that before. But now I’m like “Who was Rue?” (Quick Google search.) Oh, I thought you teared up at a scene with her sister. Maybe I confused that.

          Or maybe you teared up TWICE in the same movie!

                  1. Aha, now it makes more sense to me:

                    Consider the scene where Rue dies.. She was a young girl exactly Prim’s age who asks Katniss to sing to her as she’s dying…. but until she sings that song, it doesn’t hit home. For Katniss, losing Rue was like losing Prim. Considering Prim was supposed to go to the Games, the scene is even more poignant.

                    We said. There’s an emotional point and a few toppers – that’s joke terminology, but it works. comedians probably stole it from drama writers anyway.

                    It’s basically kicking the viewer when they’re down. And then the topper is kicking them again.

                    Like you said, it’s sad that the girl befriended Katniss and died – that’s sad, that’s #1

                    THEN as she’s dying, she asks Katniss to sing to her. That drags it out and makes it all the more painful and tender. That’s #2

                    Then the girls is Prim’s age #3

                    and prim was supposed to go instead of Katniss #4

                    That a kick with a triple topper. That’s a lot.

                    Great example. I don’t know if I can come up with that many for my story, but I’ll work on it. I was more singular, like Titanic. In fact, that’s what I told my wife, the Titanic example. I’ll have to give it some thought now, since we are nearing the end…

                    1. The abundant laughter comment was about the feels. I guess we ran out of comment layers.
                      It would be tough to write something like Rue’s death, with all those details that are personal to the character. Goes to show what a great storyteller Collins is.

  4. The older deodorant commercials and I don’t think I am alone in this. Oh, but that isn’t a movie is it?😏 Gone with the Wind, Steel Magnolias, Gravity, The Green Mile, E.T, The Way We Were…

    1. I can’t say I ever cried at a deo commercial, but I get where you’re coming from. After having a kid in the house for a while, there were certain commercials that affected me – and not the Budweiser ones, either.

      Let’s go through the list. Did I cry at ET? I don’t remember, but I’ll say yes. Seems like when they had to split up it was probably sad and I’d have cried.

      Gone With The Wind? No. But only because by the time I finally watched it, there were so many famous scenes that I’d heard about my whole life, they didn’t have the impact.

      Steel Magnolias – never saw it.

      Gravity – I did see that one. I found it pretty dull. I didn’t get emotional,. but I’m not judging you for getting caught up in it. A lot of people did.

      Green Mile… Hmm… I’ll say yes, but I’m not sure I can tell you what scene.

      ET we talked about above

      The Way We Were – this is a good one because when I first saw it I was with a girl who really got sad at certain parts, and she burst into tears when Streisand brushed the hair out of Redford’s face after they’d been broken up and gotten remarried to other people. She was like, see! She still loves him!

      I didn’t cry then, but I totally understood why she did.

      Then Redford was on the boat and the guy asked him his favorite year and he listed the ones when he was with Streisand, and THAT got me, because I agreed. He did love her, but he painfully moved on.

      So that pain of the love lost is what made it sad to me. And for folks following along, it is a bit of recurring theme for me, and maybe for you, too. Which I have been thinking about using in latest WIP. my wife wanted the story to have a happy ending, but I am going sad, and I think readers are really going to hate me for it but in a good way.

      What got you in that The Way We Were?

  5. Ans now for the men. The Original Goodbye Mr. Chips has me by the throat every time. It’s the end of the film and he’s dying. All the little boys he taught, many of whom died in the war are lines up as young boys again and he sees his deceased wife.

  6. There are many, but this one is topical to the season that’s approaching: White Christmas. Every time the general starts down the stairs in his uniform I know whats going to happen and I start to cry. I’m tearing up right now just writing about it. I know he’s going to go through those doors and all his men are going to stand and salute him. Why does it kill me? I think it harks back to that idea that we dispose of our soldiers after we no longer need them. And that it’s a brotherhood that never really dies. Your fellow soldier will always go the extra mile, five hundred, five thousand because they know where you’ve been. Because you share something that only someone who’s walked with you can share. It’s beautiful and heart breaking. The entire movie is about doing for someone something they can’t do for themselves and didn’t even realize they need. Sorry I got a little long winded.

    1. I might cry at White Christmas just because I lived in Ohio as a kid and now live in Florida since college, and white Christmases pretty much went away when I moved, so it makes me sentimental for the old days, the old neighborhood, the loved ones who are no longer with us and a life that doesn’t exist any more.

  7. “Amelie”. The scene where Nino and Amelie kiss for the first time–it makes me cry like a baby. I’ve seen Amelie over 30 times and I swear I start to sob five minutes before the scene. It is THAT touching and moving !
    I also cry every time I watch a certain scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” Chevy Chase is stuck in the attic–he’s dressed in women’s outerwear and starts watching old family films. It gets my heart every time!

  8. I cried for LOTR. Every time, for the book. I cried when Gandalf died. Put the book down and sobbed, although I was really crying for Frodo. That was the sheer loss of losing someone you loved and counted on. It was a first time through only thing, but it was intense at the time.

    The same scene that made CS Lewis tear up, where Gollum was on the edge of repentence, and a harsh word from Sam drove him away. That was one of those scenes that I wanted to go and smack Peter Jackson for ruining. Those stakes were as big as they got. A soul was lost.

    Boromir’s death–and on that one I’ll admit JRRT dropped the ball. Jackson showed the orcs taking Merry and Pippin away as Boromir fell. Boromir gave the last full measure of devotion there, and he died knowing that he failed to protect them. That can still get me to tear up as I type.

    Eowyn defending Theoden for much the same reasons.

    Not quite a tear, but an overwhelming sense of horror as the doomed host rides out from Minas Tirith. They’re there to die, and they know it, and they have no idea if it will be enough. But it’s all they have left to try. They’ll never know if it will save their loved ones or not. And I loved Aragorn for leading it.

    Again, not quite a tear, but the ending line is a sucker punch to the gut. I usually sit and clutch the book for a while after reading it.

    1. Interesting. LOTR is another one I never read. Couldn’t get past the opening paragraph after reading it like six times. I think a thick book can be intimidating if you get stuck on the opening lines!

      I had no idea it was so touching. I may have to give it a second look.

      1. A lot of people have to force themselves through the opening. Once you get through Bilbo’s party and into Gandalf telling Frodo about the Ring, it gets into a nice groove. Some people don’t like the poetry. If you don’t, it’s skippable. Like a lovely ornament, but you don’t need it if it bugs you.

        1. My college roommate LOVED that book/trilogy. Loved it. He reread it all the time. So one day I picked it up and decided to see what all the fuss was about. It was awful. The words were like sandpaper on my eyes. I get it that I’m in the minority on that one, so maybe one day I’ll give it another shot.

  9. Believe it or not Toy Story 3 and Up are two movies that make me cry every single time. For Up, it was the love story and how much he loved Ellie. For Toy Story 3, it was the scene where Andy was saying goodbye to all of his toys…especially Woody. Why oh why did I give up my Pound Puppy?

    1. Yeah, I’ve seen both of those. I’m sure Toy Story 1 didn’t make me cry but after having a kid and being 100% responsible for somebody for what seemed like forever and then they need you less and less, while the freedom is huge, the being discarded sucks. And that was echoed in the other two movies. We were great together, once – but not anymore.

      Up, absolutely losing the woman he’d spent his life with and then seeing their dreams together, that totally hist me. Probably cos it’s a cartoon and it’s supposed to be fun so you let your guard down, and then wham.

      Yep. Both of those get me. I’m sure I sat there with my kid wondering why I was crying, too.

  10. Glad to see you liked the FB post enough to make sure own post here Dan 🙂 I’ve gone through many a Kleenex with all the above mentioned. And once more, I’ll mention the 4 I posted to this on FB. Kramer vs. Kramer, The Champ, Brian’s Song, and Steel Magnolias. 🙂

  11. Let’s see.. a few days late to the scene.. but “Up” had me in almost tears in the first 5 minutes of the movie and the scene in Toy Story 3 with the incinerator had me there… But the movies that really break through that ‘almost’ wall and have actual water works…”Black Hawk Down”, “American Sniper”, “Lone Survivor”.. (picking up on a theme here?)

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