Last week, I brought up some thoughts on scenes that "hold fast," or rather, scenes that aren't easy to forget and how to go about making your own. The open-ended question received some great responses and "emotion" popped up the most. I sincerely agree. Emotion is something that I often associate with "character." I may be on left field here, but for me, emotion is (for a better sense of the word) a sensitive subject. When I browse books or DVDs, I occasionally read this little descriptive phrase in one form or another - "filled with (honest) emotion." This makes me shrug. I then say, "okay," and put it back on the shelf. Every story should have elements that make your audience feel emotion. Anything that goes out of its way to tell you something is full of emotion is only trying to sell you something.
(warning: "filled with emotion" may kill query letters)
My personal thought on the matter is that stories are not full of emotion. The audience is. It's the writer's job to fill their story with the right elements to draw in its audience and effectively evoke their emotions. Do that and people will reflect on the story and remember it.
Something else to keep in mind is that emotion is a vast ocean. Millions of people can watch the same movie or read the same book and get something different out of it. Someone will love what is generally disliked and someone will always hate what is generally admired. The Bell-Shaped Curve. It applies to everything. For example, one of my favorite shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender was brought up in last week's comments, about how a particular scene moved them and brought them closer to that character. I love the show, but for me, that instance was filler and the character deviated from her established arc in a way that deterred from advancing the plot. Again, that's just me. If that scene evoked strong emotion from someone, it did its job. I look forward to Legend of Korra in the near future.
Now, about evoking emotion. How do you do that? The first step I use is giving the reader a scene where they are immersed, using whichever of the five senses that will work best. Then, I give my characters a situation, a response and consequences (more importantly, I give them a history before I write the book, which then gives me insight into how the character will react in a given situation). Paramount to all else is giving your character weaknesses. We all have them. Weaknesses help us relate. Admitting one's weaknesses opens a lot of doors and makes us care about them more. A small dash of the unexpected (Luke's chopped hand/Joker's pencil trick) also makes for a delectable, memorable brew.
The rest is application, something to be practiced rather than taught, but I can suggest that you move your scene along and not get too hung up on the details.
I'm currently writing a scene for my WiP that moved me in a very unexpected way. I'll admit it--I shed a tear. What made the scene so moving was the culmination of two characters, realizing what's important to them after 200 pages of growth and development. No. It was not a kissing scene. This isn't a kissing book--for the most part--but it made me cry. That's saying something.
Even us tough guys have feelings too, you know?
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Click here for an older post on the intensity of feelings.
How do you like to evoke emotion from your audience?
I'm David, and it's--sniff--kinda emotional in here.