The end of Season 4 of House is one of the more touching moments I’ve seen on TV in a long time. As I recall, my shirt looked like I had just come in out of the rain when it was over. Upon reflecting, the next day, when I had calmed down a bit, I thought that this was what I hoped to accomplish someday with my writing. Not, you know, to make people feel like crap, but to elicit that kind of emotional response from my audience.
Now, House had a couple things going for it–great actors, soulful music to set the mood, superior directing et cetera–that I don’t have for a short story or novel, obviously. But there are certainly lots of books out there that can create those emotional responses as well. And I have to wonder:
How the hell do they do it?
I’ve written a couple of pieces that are meant to strike very emotional chords. And when I’m caught up in writing them, I usually feel quite emotional about it. And then I finish, and I give it to other people, and then they just point out the problems with the story, or that they don’t understand why the characters are feeling that way, or that they don’t particularly like the character that was supposed to be the sympathetic one.
So then after I cry for awhile about it, I look at it, and I try to figure out where I went wrong. Why do I feel things about it when no one else does? I was so caught up in it when I wrote it, why didn’t that passion get transferred onto the page? Or at least, why wasn’t it transferred as effectively as I wanted it to?
I think maybe sometimes the other problems with the piece are just too distracting for the emotion to be felt, or without those problems fixed the emotional aspect isn’t as compelling. But then when I try to rework things to make it work I always worry–if I’m going back to something I wrote from the heart, I wrote with emotion flowing through my pen, and start analyzing it and making little changes here and there in an attempt to calculatingly maximize what the reader feels… will the emotion of my original writing be lost? What if I start that way–can I really elicit a strong emotional response to something that I write in a cold, calculating manner?
Just how does emotion get transferred from a writer to an audience?
Besides a soundtrack, I mean.