The Emotional Toll

Sometimes in my homework, I’m required, or requested to read screenplays.

And often in our classes, they talk about evoking the emotions of the audience. That a story is no good, basically, unless the audience can emotionally connect with it. That’s why there are love stories in pretty much everything. Because love is something that everyone has either experienced or hopes to experience in their lives (and if you don’t think you qualify for either of those, you’re fooling yourself). Love, and validation. I seriously challenge anyone to find a movie that doesn’t have at least one of those two in some form.

Anyway, I read this screenplay today that was SOO emotionally draining. In a good way, like the conflict was so poignant and so relevant to me that it stressed me out, which is the kind of feeling you want to evoke from your audience (as long as you resolve it well). It’s a movie I haven’t seen before, and who knows if I would actually want to watch it now because my heart was so heavy afterward. But that, my friends, is good writing.

I’ve heard many times that if you don’t cry while you’re writing it, there is no way the audience will cry. I don’t think that’s entirely true, because I once wrote a creative non-fiction short story about my first love, and read it at a conference. At the end, I think every woman in the room was crying. Maybe even men, too; I just remember looking out into the audience and seeing all these women in tears, and I was surprised because I didn’t think the story was that sad.

Anyway, same goes for comedy: if you don’t laugh, the audience won’t. Or any other emotion you want to convey. If it doesn’t work for the writer, who contains the entire world in their head, how could it work for the audience who is only getting a sad representation of the richness inside the writer’s mind? (Well, hopefully the representation isn’t that sad.)

Yesterday I watched Little Women and cried at least five different times. Which is much more than usual. But the point is, here is a movie I’ve seen upwards of thirty times, and it will makes me cry. I’ve mentioned before how this movie relates to (and has probably shaped) my life, but the fact remains, I know exactly what’s going to happen. Jo will refuse Laurie. Beth will die. Jo and Amy will reconcile. Jo will fall in love with a German. But it still makes me cry. New goal: write stuff that good. šŸ˜‰


4 responses to “The Emotional Toll

  1. Love this post!!! Too many authors try to get by with faking emotions and it never works. They try to write a sad scene and it comes across as so over the top and maudlin that it’s more like a farce. Whenever I’m in the mood for a good cry I watch Imitation of Life from 1959 with Juanita Moore. The racial story in that movie doesn’t just pull at your heartstrings it tears them, but in a good way. Loved this post

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