Emotionality in writing

Posted: 29th April 2007 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized

Did you ever have one of those teachers who spoke in the same tone of voice all the time? You know the one who could be having their genitals set on fire, be ordering fast food or declaring they won the lottery all in the same tone of voice? Boring isn’t it? Even if it wasn’t a teacher that you had that spoke that way, nearly everyone has met someone in the course of their life who did.

And yet, people write books all the time that lack emotional diversity. Honestly while the most common lack in most novels is a good plot, emotional complexity is not far behind it. Whole novels have been written with plot twists, character development and introspection by the boatload and barely a thimbleful of emotionality. I wonder how this can happen, i understand that it does, but do people not read their own writing with a bit of objectivity?

Humorous novels are probably the best way to get a good grasp of this. Dave Freer and Eric Flints “Pyramid Scheme” and Lois Bujold’s “A Civil Campaign” are prime examples of how to put but a fast moving plot into a comedic book and keep the emotionality varied. They do this by not trying to be funny every single line, or even every page but by keeping the overall tone of the book humorous but with the inclusion of other emotional content that is integral to the plot. For example, in “A Civil Campaign” Lois often goes chapters where the actual content is not overtly funny, and sometimes only funny in a sangfroid sorta way. The dinner party scene is an amazing construction in that it manages to make most people want to laugh hysterically and just wince at how close to home it hits for the many among us who have done something stupid in the name of love.

Freer and Flint take a slightly different tact with punning in the midst of deadly peril, atypical portrayals of deities and harsher more direct illuminations of human behavior. Both books work because the authors, who are all smart, funny people know you can’t keep the same emotional resonance throughout anything as long as a novel. An example of a full length work trying to be funny for the entire length, and failing miserably is the movie Marci X its bad, just plain bad. It falls flat by being whole deprived of the virtues that Freer, Flint, Bujold and other good writers are wholly cognizant of.

  • Sometimes it's difficult to judge how much of one's writing emotion does get into the text, and how much one thinks it does. (And of late, reading around the blogosphere, it's odd to note a few writers who assume that because they felt great emotion, the work reflects it, and therefore the readers simply aren't capable of achieving their own pinnacles of complexity and rarefied feeling.)