The Sway Of The Script

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

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My writing has been very emotional as of late, for various reasons. The first is, however, that the story I am telling is essentially mine on a dramatized scale. (To get a good idea of just how draining this can be, think of the story closest to your heart, on steroids.) Needless to say, it's been a bit of a roller coaster.
It has helped that I've been reading The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer, I'm convinced, is a genius), which is not, at least in the beginning, a particularly exhaustive book. It is one of those books that could swing just as wildly as it wished, but in the hands of its capable author is still somehow grounded. Needless to say, I'm enjoying that.
I promised you all weekly NaNoWriMo updates, and I do intend to post one quite soon, but as of the moment I'd like to brush on the topic of emotional books, since that's what I'm currently dealing with.

How can our work affect our readers if it hasn't affected us?
Ah, the eternal question! It's truth rings clear to every author, because of the simple sense it holds. But just for today, I'd like to argue the other point: how much emotion is too much emotion?

I like a good emotional book probably a bit more than the next person. It may be because I hold that all well-conducted books should bring out some sort of emotion from their reader, or perhaps it's simply because I love to cry over books. 

But there comes a point - whether with a book or a movie - that the reader/viewer cannot put up with all the trauma. It wears us down as human beings, and we find ourselves longing for the comfortable scenes, the happy scenes, the lovely scenes (and if they are brought out at just about this moment one gets even more emotional, but I'll leave that for another time). I love to cry over a book or a movie, but if it's been a weepy ordeal the whole way through, I find myself emotionally exhausted. In some circumstances this is acceptable because, as I've mentioned, it's a beautifully miserable tale and the happy scenes are tear-streaked too because they are so rare. (Les Miserables is a good example.)

But it's the books (ahem, Mockingjay, I'm looking at you) that are hopeless the whole way through and end hardly any happier than they began that the reader (worn thin from emotion) wants to toss behind her head before reading A.A. Milne for a good week as a form of recovery. 

As usual, the key is in the balance. A book that does not draw some form of emotion - even laughter - from you as you are writing, will most likely alienate your future readers. As humans, we like to identify with the characters in the books we read. For that to happen, the characters have to bring out our emotions just as well as anyone we know in real life can.
Similarly, the books that plunge our hearts into the depths of despair, while perhaps well-written, are like that one person who makes her life miserable, drawing a gap between herself and the people around her. Unless we are also in a hopeless situation with our lives (which I seriously doubt any of us are) we cannot relate to the characters, and we feel like strangers, watching a life asunder.

It's been difficult to make this work with Finding My Balance, because of the wealth of emotion presenting itself to me. But I'm giving it my best, most hopeful shot, and if in the end I find myself drained (more than the usual I-just-wrote-a-novel-in-a-month-drained, that is) than perhaps I need to go back in a lighten things up. After all, life is dark enough on its own, why do we dwell so long in its murkiness?

Alright friends, I'm off to write - see ya!

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