Emotion is the beating heart of a book, too weak and the story struggles and dies but can you have too much? I've never given much thought to the power that authors wield over readers' emotions but I've listened to several books recently that have had a huge impact on my own. This has made me think carefully about what I want to write and think - 'what effect do I want to achieve?'.
1) Me Before You - this book is brilliantly written and Jojo Moyes had me hooked from the start. A lot in the narrative resonated with me in a good way to start with but as the story progressed I found myself increasingly on edge. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it yet but I will say the book had me sobbing buckets. I don't think I've cried like that over fiction since Jilly Cooper killed off a character's pet dog (actually she does that a lot!). I loved the book, cared about the characters and it kept me rapt but at the end I felt...well a bit crap if I'm being honest.
2) Recipe for Love was a sweet and gentle contrast. Listening to it soothed me and left me feeling gently uplifted, soft and positive about life. In fact much as a face to face meeting with Katie Fforde leaves you! As though she is giving away a bit of herself to every reader. 'Me Before You' made me feel much more but on reflection I'm not sure I wanted all those feelings, not that it was healthy to experience them.
3) Believing the Lie by Emily Barr was utterly gripping. I couldn't press the pause button on my iPhone and stayed up very late listening to the end. There are dark emotions in this book yet there was a positive tone to the heroine and the resolution of her story was satisfying. Despite the main character's frequent protestations that she wasn't a survivor she most certainly was and the story was uplifting, at least I found it so.
It is incredibly subjective. Who knows what will touch readers, what stories will make them feel, what old wounds may be opened up...
I have some books by favourite authors on my phone that I cannot listen to. There is one no-go subject area that when it crops up, as it frequently does, I press stop and never revisit the book. I wonder if the authors who write about very dark emotions, who perhaps have never experienced them first hand have really thought about how the reader will feel, how their words will effect them.
I have no objection to writers who want to write 'real' endings or explore complex issues and would recommend all the three books above heartily but I know that, depending on my mood and resilience I would pick the book that left me uplifted, hopeful and taking that little bit of positive energy from the author.
And if I write that is what I hope to achieve.
How much emotion is too much? I've heard that question a lot. Also the recommendation that we should double the emotion in every scene (a tip that did improve my writing). My personal opinion is that no amount of emotion is too much but it should be applied wisely.
All word processing software should come with a warning: Words are powerful, use with caution.