LaVerne St. George wrote a wonderful blog in October about the importance of emotion in a novel. If there isn’t emotion in a novel, there’s no conflict, no motivation, no goal, and, finally, no plot, no book. I agree completely but would like to add a corollary with which I’m sure LaVerne would agree: there’s also such a thing as too much emotion.
I’ve read books which are much like sitting down on a plane and having the person next to you tell you all the bad things that have happened to her for the entire four hour flight while she sobs or swears. Too much! I don’t know you well enough! You’ve really depressed and embarrassed me and that’s not what writers want to do with their readers.
Let me illustrate this with our two cats. They are probably the cutest in the entire world although you may disagree.
Maggie is—I have to admit it—boring. She’s a very sweet little cat who sits like a lady and sometimes like a Sphinx and other times like a cookie jar. Other than running in fear from her brother, she shows very little emotion. I love to have her sitting on the sofa next to me, purring while I pet her, but reading her would put me to sleep.
Her brother Scooter is full of himself and full of emotion. When he’s startled, he leaps into the air, twirls and dashes away. When he wants something, he nags loudly until he gets it. He hunkers down when he sees his sister, his tail switching and body quivering in anticipation and delight. When his sister moves, the mighty hunter leaps. He plays with his ping pong balls in the bathtub with wild abandon and passion. If he feels lonely and needy, he wanders around the house yowling and pulling his toy rope around behind him, sadder than any creature should ever be.
Yes, Mr. Scooter, the wonder cat, is filled with energy and excitement. Frankly, he wears me out. If I were reading him, I’d give up after the first chapters, exhausted.
So that’s how emotion is in life and in love—but, for the purpose of this blog, in writing. Too little and it doesn’t sustain our interest. Too much and it just simply wears us out.