Monday, 22 January 2007

Emotion and Context

Didn't quite get as far as I had hoped with short-story at weekend: still fighting with ending. I know what my goal is, but I had four attempts at fulfilling that goal and haven't struck the right chord yet.
However, for the first time ever, I read back something I had written and burst into tears! Bottom lip went and everything! I've jerked the odd tear here and there before, but finally I devastated myself! Very happy to have done this (at last)!
I noticed, too, on one of the forums over at litopia that somebody has posted:
'I also read Solveig's competition winner and that made me cry.'
I gotta say, it's a very curious thing - that I have made a man cry with my writing (assuming he was being literal/truthful).
I've read this quite a few times now from various different authors and agents: If you're not moved yourself by your writing, how can you expect to move anyone else?
All of this presupposes a goal - that we must elicit an emotional response.
This is my top goal, closely shadowed by my desire to provoke interesting/profound thoughts.

So, the second draft of my short story is almost complete. I've tried some new techniques out, and I've also tried to create a greater variety of emotional responses than I did in my first short story. I'm very interested in context - in the ordering of these emotions. If I were to post here the paragraph that moved me to tears, it would not work on the reader. In part, its impact is due to its positioning in the narrative: the tragedy immediately follows a moment of humour, and the humour itself is both farcical and terrible. And this, itself, follows a moment of beautiful descriptive prose, which itself follows a deeply profound thought. And so on.
I'm still very uncertain how best to order the emotions and, indeed, if there is a prescribed order that might be used to generate maximum impact. I think much of this comes down to anticipation and also to establishing a receptive reader; to this end, I am happy with the kinaesthetic opening. The problem I am faced with now (and you'd think I'd learn eh?) is that I've gone over the 1500 word max again! Not so much this time (I'm at 1550 words or so; last time I hit almost 1800 words!), but I still have the ending to complete. The flow is working a dream, and I'm concerned that I might screw the entire thing up by removing or diluting a pivotal emotion. I can easily see where portions of narrative can be removed without harming the resolution. But that's of a lesser concern to me; the story works largely because of the emotional flow. Anyhoo, I'm hoping to find a few hours one evening this week to finish the ending first, and then I'll begin that horrendous process of editing.
Certainly, I will continue to experiment with the effects of ordering emotion sets, and will continue to develop techniques for eliciting a wealth of emotional responses.

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