Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Writing Emotional Response in Fiction and, well let's face it, Memoir

UPDATE: So far response shows I am the crazy one here. (Big surprise, I know.) Most of you experience head or stomach symptoms in response to extreme emotion. Indeed, you say, lurching is the appropriate term. Sweating and loss of breath have also been noted. Thanks for your comments. I'm finding this a fascinating discussion and I hope it helps anyone who writes. It's certainly helping me, though I am now questioning my own neurological makeup.

Back to the original post:

An interesting issue came up recently in one of my writing groups. (I'm a writing group two-timer. Shhh! Don't tell.) And it really has me thinking today about writing and reading emotional response.

It seems to me that in MG and YA lit (and adult memoir) that stomachs lurch in response to emotion more than they actually do in life. I'm actually having a difficult time thinking of a recent book in which a stomach did not lurch or turn. And, I've got to be honest with you all: My stomach has never--not once--lurched in response to a traumatic or an emotional situation.* Am I alone here?

In fact, I clearly remember the first time my stomach lurched. I was fourteen and on a trip to Magic Mountain. It was on a roller coaster and I thought, so this is what it means to have your stomach lurch. I finally know! Really, I was pretty excited because I'd read all about it and had no idea what it meant.

When something traumatic or truly emotional has happened to me, I always have the same physical response. A pain behind my sternum--the pain that happens before you cry for real. Then the pain moves up my throat to the back of my mouth. There it stays until I cry. After crying I feel physically numb and slow until I can act.

So here's my question to all you readers and writers out there. How do you react to tragedy or extreme emotion? Does fiction and memoir adequately reflect your response? Does your stomach lurch?
Image from the NIH.
*I've also never felt queasy in response to an emotional event. Fast food is another story.