Daily Challenge: Make ’em Sigh, Make ’em Cry

So, you’ve studied comedy.  You’ve practiced stand-up routines.  You’ve learned to ad-lib, and take your cues from everything around you.  Then you’ve let people know you are a comedian.  After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Easy.  Someone walks up to you and says, “you?  A comedian?  Hah!  Make me laugh.  Say something funny.”

Poof.  It all goes away.  Nothing is funny. 

Sound familiar?  Are there life-skills that you have mastered in practice but cannot perform on cue?

Putting emotion—strong, or even just a touch of it—into your work is something that we can often do, but how often can we explain how it works?

You know that there are people who are masters of situation, of motif, of the components that make heart-catch moments.  Many of them work in advertising.

They deal in symbols, of course, in the short-hand representation of what passes for emotion.  If you’ve ever felt a tear trickle at a TV commercial you know what I’m talking about.  The problem is, that is emotion without development, or rather, a type of emotion that cuts across… that takes a shortcut. 

Image: neuronarrative.wordpress.com

Think twice about this:  If you could say a mantra, take a pill, or push a button and be deliriously happy… every time, would you?  I would guess that most people who read UhW would say no, but I wonder.  What if bliss were that easy?  Might you be tempted?  The question, though, is just empty happiness, chemical joy, good enough?  Maybe.

I say the same thing holds true in writing fiction.  If you can find the emotional levers of your reader without taking the time to develop a deep, reasoned, and clear path to the emotion, should you do it?  Should you manipulate the emotions, or should you nurture them?

I suppose the answer to that question is another question.  What is your goal in writing?  Is it to make a buck (I can get behind that), is it to teach something?  Is it to explore and learn something for yourself?  Is it to touch the heart of your reader?

Shortcuts may be appropriate if you are writing for the popular market… but do they stand up in literature?

OK, enough.

Today’s challenge is not to write, but rather to feel.  Today, I want you to look at your own work, work that touches the heart in one way or another.  Look back at the books you’ve read that took you on the most exciting, or heart-felt trips. 

Wallow in it a bit today.  Get in touch with what makes you happy, what makes you cry, and think—just think—about how you can tap into that for yourself.  On purpose.  On call.

Your thoughts?

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One response to “Daily Challenge: Make ’em Sigh, Make ’em Cry

  1. This must be, for me, the best post on writing to date.
    Unfortunately, , there was an interest in such a ‘happy’ pill as you mention above, not too long ago. Remember? The question of emotion and writing from and to the heart though has some very subtle implications, I think. It is not often dealt with. One reader, did say that one scene did make her cry, but I had to make several guesses before I could determine what she meant. That says volumes- for me at least.

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