Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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23 September 2015

The Scales of Emotion

Great stories take their readers over hills of emotions, across peaks where we laugh and grin with the characters, and into valleys where we cry with them. Comedies have us laugh at the characters’ mistakes, and tragedies have us despair over them. Too much in either direction will make a story feel hollow or dark. However, these are not quite the balanced scales of emotion to which I am referring here.

Characters’ make-ups automatically elicit feelings in the reader. Characters may be lovable, odious, annoying, hilarious, frightening, or cool. These elicited feelings derive from the character’s capacities, appearance, dependance on others, tendency to err, and emotional state. The scales of emotion to which I would like to call your attention are found here: in the feelings the characters summon upon first encounter.

It is possible here to explore novel combinations of emotions, because not all characters are natural to the human imagination. For example, “Adventure Time”, a Cartoon Network series, plies a unique emotional impact by combining cute imagery with disgusting imagery. Far more common examples include the “lovable rogue”, a character possessed of plentiful antihero traits whose basic proclivity toward self-sacrifice attracts the reader’s admiration, combining detestation and admiration, and the soldier, a character entirely dispassionate toward the world and virtually everything in it, with the exception of the desire to protect someone precious, to which task they summon a virtually superhuman passion, combining the extremes of mental calm and a fiery heart.

I cannot exactly tell you how to write such a character well or how to make them believable, I only urge you to realize their existence and value. What simultaneous, conflicting emotions can you generate within the reader? Is it worth it? Apparently, some such characters excel at engaging.

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015