Saturday, March 9, 2013

Getting the Feel of It

A presentiment hovers over events in story much the same way a hummingbird considers its options while hovering above a clump of shrubbery.

When we set forth on a venture--any venture--there's bound to be some presentiment relating to the outcome or of potential obstacles on the way to an outcome.  Things in general turn out better or worse than we expect.  Only on rare occasions do the results prove congruent with our expectations.

Sometimes things we dread or view with some measure of dread often turn out to prove enjoyable, profitable in one or more ways.  Things we anticipate with great eagerness or anticipation of joy may crumble beneath us.

Even ordinary, daily activities come prepackaged with some prefabricated aura.  In such cases, surprise plays a collateral role.  A thing we consider routine, perhaps bordering on a presentiment of boredom, can surprise us with a memorable experience in which one or more of the pleasure sensors is affected.  Of course the reverse is true.  An activity we viewed with a presentiment of potential boredom or even worse descent into having our mind numbed may exceed our deepest expectation, again proving itself memorable for its extremity.

This is your set-up argument for your belief that every scene in a story has some resident emotion, at first hovering much as the earlier hummingbird hovers over its perspective meal, then paying off with surprise, which seems to belong in the emotion column, with suspense, frustration, pure joy, curiosity, anger, disappointment, or any of the feelings associated with engaged participation.

Story is a tour through a shifting landscape of feelings.  A favored writer of yours, the Charles Dickens friend and, thus, contemporary, Wilkie Collins, put it this way in reference to story and readers:  "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait."  You're fond of this observation because of your belief that these three elements seem to need to work together.  Something funny is often a trigger for something sad, and the reverse is true.  If we're made to wait to see which will come next, the effects and virtuosity are even more exquisite.

Your own fondness for the pulp-level horror story has its genesis in this calculus.  A character is  given complete freedom of a house, with one exception, say the attic or cellar, where, of course, the curious character is sure to trespass (or there wouldn't be much of a story).

The attic or cellar is quite dark, thus when the character takes a step into the darkness, feels his foot make contact with some unseen thing that produces a loud yowl, we join the character in the reflexive jerk of fear, then our fear turns to laughter at the discovery that the "thing," the stepped-on entity, was a cat.  A few more steps and thunk, another contact, which we assume to be the cat or something of equal innocence.  Of course, it is not; it is in fact something of true awfulness, which pays off on the early warning about not going to the cellar or attic.

Whatever resident emotion is tour leader of the moment you're in, there is a sense of the dramatic about it, and with the drama is energy and a sense of expanding into the universe, even if the emotion is on the sad or blue side.

Story is incomplete without emotion.

So is life.

So is music.

So is art.

So is everything you enjoy and all the things that break over you as though a wave from a tsunami.

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