Emotion and Stuff

Okay, I admit it: I'm addicted to Bravo's Step It Up and Dance. If you haven't seen it, think Project Runway except with dancing. They even have a Tin Gunn-esque character who acts as a mentor.

Anyway, last night the finalists had to do a choreographed routine to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Throughout the rehearsals, Nancy, who is the tough love judge, kept telling the dancers to bring their emotion and experience to the dance. So, in addition to learning a rigorously technical dance, they also had to tap into their emotions.

Hmm, sounds a lot like writing. In addition to minding our word craft, balancing plot structure with character development, and a plethora of other technical issues, authors also have to be good at both eliciting emotion and bringing their own emotions to the story.

When you get down to it, any kind of art--any form of creative expression--really boils down to creating an emotional experience. Even if you're writing about an alien race or other non-human characters, you must tap into the the basic truths of human emotion in some form.

In my own writing, I tend to go back to the same themes again and again. This is not something I sit down and plan to do. In fact, I usually don't understand where or how these themes will crop up until the story is fairly far along. Why do they keep cropping up? Because they reflect my experiences. They're issues I can bring to the table and explore because they're real to me. Yes, even when I'm writing about demon cats.

So, yes, even though my writing can verge on irreverent, some scenes put me through the emotional wringer. This is because they showcase something personal to me, only filtered through metaphor and symbol.

A writer's job--nay, a writer's duty--is to shine a spotlight on some facet of the human experience and help readers go on an emotional journey. And to get there, the writer must first go on their own emotional journey.

I can hear some of my fellow Leaguer's sniggering in the back ground. Since most of us tend to write humor, it's easy to laugh off the emotional parts. But I bet if you sat us down over a few glasses of potent adult beverages and asked us to talk about where our stories come from, eventually we'd break down and admit that our writing comes from a very personal place.

Then the tears would come. Followed by the vomit.

At least, that's what happened when I tried this tactic with Anton.

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