Emotional Moments 2of6 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

What follows is the second  part of a list of what I feel are the common emotional tones, with examples. (For part 1 please click this link.)

(Note: Many examples may represent spoilers if you have not read/seen the story, though I will do my best to refrain from being too specific.)

This section focuses on what I call Positive Passive emotional moments:

Relief/Safety
Gratitude/Contentment

Positive Passive (2/6)

Positive emotions that often lead to inaction.

Relief/Safety

“Good/Oh thank god.”
(after)

Closely related to joy is the feeling of relief, the perception that one’s worries and fears were either unfounded, or that the danger has passed. It’s the feeling of letting go of a great weight, and savoring the absence of the strain/tension needed to maintain it.
It’s often a moment of raw vulnerability, where the character reveals their own weakness, which humanizes them, and reassures audiences that “it’s okay to be weak/vulnerable sometimes.”
These scenes typically come right on the heels of a fresh threat, or in the immediate aftermath of a conflict. The greater the tension, the greater the release. In some cases they can also be a false safety, designed to trick audiences into lowering their guard so that the next turn hits them all the harder. This is particularly common in suspense/thriller stories, where the story almost lays siege to the audience, keeping them on edge as much as possible.
However, it’s important to use false safety sparingly. Stories rely on contrast, and if audiences become distrustful, and refuse to lower their guard, then the next turn will lose its potency.

Mellow Example

In Fellowship of the Ring (film directed by Peter Jackson), while Frodo and Sam are traveling from the Shire to Bree, there’s a scene where Sam loses sight of Frodo and begins calling out to him. But after a few tense moments Frodo reappears, surprised by Sam’s concern, to which Sam replies that Gandalf told him “Don’t you lose him.” On the one hand, it’s clear that Sam is concerned, but his reaction to Frodo’s return shows that he wasn’t very worried (yet), in contrast with later scenes where Sam is clearly very concerned.

Intense example

Return of the King (film directed by Peter Jackson), near the end, Frodo awakens in comfortable accommodations, surrounded by close friends, and it’s clear from everyone’s enthusiasm that the resolution is complete, and they are overjoyed by the outcome. The fact that “this” is the big resolution of the conflict that has spanned the entire trilogy lends a great deal of weight, as does the intensity of every character’s reactions.

Gratitude/Contentment

“You don’t know what this means to me.”

Gratitude or contentment are essentially the prize/reward. The character has struggled, and now they receive validation and encouragement, proof that they were in fact on the right path. This is one of the main ways stories establish meaning (rewarding the characters to embody the values of the story, punishing those who represent all that is “wrong” in the world).

Like joy, moments of gratitude provide a bit of levity, as well as a sense of growth and progress, giving the character a fighting chance in the conflict; unless the story is a thriller, horror, or tragedy, where the character is beaten and worn down, but even those genres can benefit from a certain amount of benevolence towards the protagonist. After all, first and foremost audiences continue because they want to know how the story resolves. If the story becomes too predictable, audiences have no reason to continue.

Mellow Example

In Game of Thrones, Arya is frequently chided for not being more ladylike, until her half brother, Jon Snow, gives her a sword. Now, on the one hand, this is not condoned by anyone else, so everyone who objects to her behavior continues to do so, but the fact that someone supports her is a source of strength, and over time that strength finally convinces someone else in her life to relent and arrange for her to receive training in swordplay.

At the time it’s a small thing, but it shows Arya’s vulnerability (just a little) and establishes a warm relationship (unfettered by tension and conflict), both of which make Arya a more likeable character during those early sections of the story, when she frequently conflicts with others.

Intense example

Near the end of Deathly Hallows (book 7 in the Harry Potter series), Harry sees Dumbledore once more. This scene is jarringly different from its immediate predecessor, which emphasizes the weight of all the emotions Harry is experiencing. And where that scene is a grueling struggle, the vision of Dumbledore serves as an equally intense soothing balm. Harry is praised for all that he’s done, his choices confirmed as the right ones, and his willingness to sacrifice so much is rewarded with the revelation that the actual price is not nearly as steep as he feared.
It is perhaps one of the most cathartic moments in the entire story, made all the more potent by how dark the series had become.

Next Time…
Desire/Want
Anticipation/Excitement
Curiosity/Confusion
Doubt/Uncertainty

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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19 thoughts on “Emotional Moments 2of6 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. Super clear examples, and I totally felt the relevant emotions while reading (and remembering) the examples, all except Game of Thrones, because for some reason, I haven’t watching the last several season! Thanks, Adam. 🙂

    • Thank you. I’m glad you received it so well. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll composite these posts into a text, or use them as workshops of some kind.

  2. This is amazing! So, I’ve seen all of them so easy to relate — except for ONE. Yeah, I’ve never seen GOT. I know, I know, I know — and I’m a huge fantasy, sci-fi FAN. I just never go into it and then it felt too late. But, besides that — this was a great post. And pretty accurate. Great analysis.

    • Thank you. It’s most validating to hear that. As to Game of Thrones, I watched a few seasons, and read the 5 books, but I feel no strong urge to finish the show, and don’t know how I’ll feel about the books when they come out. Sometimes I find that the popularity of a work of fiction can be a form of weight, hindering my ability to experience the story on its own. Maybe some time in the future I’ll return to it. We live in a world overflowing with stories, which gives us plenty of options, but also sometimes challenges us, as one could hardly see and read everything that’s out there.

      • Great point, and so true. Still. I live in Los Angeles and it’s always hard not to watch the “in” thing. But you are so right! There really is so much (thankfully) so there’s no way we could all see/read everything!! 🤗😊

      • Mmm. Although ironically I started writing out of frustration. I wanted to read a very particular story, and for the life of me I could not find one that didn’t fall into the same old cliches that I was so bored with. So eventually I said to heck with it and wrote the story I wanted to read, cause at least that way I knew that eventually I would find what I was looking for. Needless to say the results were less than stellar, but the experience granted me a high that left me permanently hooked. Reading is a marvelous thing, but nothing quite compares with crafting your own story.

      • I started writing my story as a cathartic kind of thing. I was writing letters to people who had helped me get “through”. I posted one of the letters that included an incident that I remembered was a turning point for me and people loved it. I then wrote another “letter” to another mentor and walla… I was encouraged to write a book and… that’s how it happened. Yeah, reading has never been the connection for me to writing. Crafting your own story though — telling that moment… it is kinda priceless!

      • I think it’s always nice to have a purpose behind the writing, at least at first. I think overtime it just becomes “what we do,” something necessary, like food, sleep, and a certain amount of physical and mental exercise. I honestly feel a bit out of sorts when work or other things truly prevent me from engaging writing for too long.

      • Mmm, and a certain amount of “it’s not about browbeating yourself or cajoling yourself into doing it. It’s about accepting that you want to.” I think so many struggle with this vague uncertainty of “…am I?” and the answer really amounts to “If you want to, for as long as you want.”

  3. That moment in Lord of the Rings where Sam loses Frodo always stands out to me as a moment of intense panic followed by immense relief. It establishes so much about their friendship, and I adored it. Hope I can write like that some day 😀

  4. I really like the descriptions of where scenes with these emotional tones come up. It’s interesting the patterns we end up following in stories and how those are often really quite universal.

    • Mmm. I think there are a lot if ways in which we effectively use the tools, but we are not completely aware of the different steps we unconsciously take, or why they work. That kind of unconscious knowledge fascinates me.

  5. These are great break downs and examples. While reading this, I kept thinking about all the times I’ve misplaced my wallet, keys or phone and the emotion I get when I recover them, usually in a logical spot. I love how, at the moment, what may seem like high stakes — Frodo disappearing or my phone disappearing — comes with almost forgettable relief. It’s still there. Of course. Silly of me to be riled up.

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