Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Visceral Response

Pick any quality work of fiction and what does it have in common with all the rest? Visceral response. Sometimes it's an unknown quality that sucks you into the story and makes you feel what the characters are feeling. Sometimes it's a quality within yourself that responds to the images being portrayed on the screen.

Tonight's episode of Criminal Minds was one of the latter for me. It was a story of an outcast teenager who turned his anger toward the people who'd hurt him and his girlfriend as a means to extoll some kind of misguided justice. One of the main characters of the show identified with the boy, and since the very beginning of Criminal Minds, I identified with that character.

Another example is the movie 50 First Dates. It's a comedy, but I alternately laugh and cry throughout it. I feel for Lucy (Drew Barrymore's character). I was her, just not as bad. When the scene comes where she learns about her accident, I bawl like a baby. Of course, the head injury jokes crack me up - maybe more than most because I know how true some of it can be.

Don't even get me started on the end of the movie Turner and Hooch. Or the lyrics to Dan Fogelberg's song Leader of the Band. Hell, the entirety of the movie Big Fish is one emotional roller coaster for me - especially since my dad hadn't been gone that long when I first watched it. Oh, and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird? And Eddie Willers from Atlas Shrugged - his last scene on the stalled train in the middle of nowhere? I'm getting weepy just thinking about it.

The point is, those pieces of fiction have a greater emotional impact on me because of who I am and my own life experiences. True, I probably would still have had a visceral response to them even if I didn't have those experiences, but I do and my own emotions are stronger for it.

Back when I wrote Spectacle and Caldera - and even Blink and RTL - I poured my own emotion into the writing. When Myke remembers her childhood betrayal, she's reliving my own. Alex's and Rachel's fear. Mary's frustration. In one way or another, it's all me. Not that I've had exactly the same experiences, but I was able to use my own emotions to create theirs.

Maybe that's been my problem lately. I've been trying so hard to write for the market that I lost sight of what makes my writing mine. *shrug* It's a theory. I'm still trying to work this all out so I can get back to writing again. (And believe me, I want to write again like a dieter wants a thick fudgy brownie covered in ice cream and hot fudge... which is another thing I want lately.)

Anyway, I'll put it to you. Are their any fictional works that you have a visceral response to? What about them gets you going? And if you write, do you think you have that quality in your own work?


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