Slightly OT: Nebula Awards

Dorian E. Gray israfel at
Thu Mar 4 15:01:13 EST 2004

Melissa replied to me...

> >The problem I have is that, while she tells a great story and creates
> >wonderful characters, she doesn't seem to be able to cope well with
> >Now, I am a reader who cries pretty easily over books.  Give me some
> >emotion and I will be in tears as I read.  But with all of Moon's work, I
> >keep finding myself thinking "I *should* be crying right now" - rather
> >*actually* crying (most specifically, at the climax of the Paksenarrion
> >trilogy).  Somehow, she just doesn't quite write the emotion so that it
> >me where it really truly hurts.
> I consider this an effect of not being good at the craft of writing.  A
> great writer can make you feel the emotion of a scene because that's a
> function not of what story she's telling, but how she's writing it.

Actually, this is a sodding good point that I really ought to have thought
of myself...I shall blame my lapse upon the brain-numbing effect of trying
to cope with 2000 emails in one go!

And to be fair to Ms. Moon, conveying emotion is one of the things *I* find
hardest to do in writing - too much one way and you have ludicrous
melodrama; too much the other way and you have something as dry as a science
textbook (like Ms. Moon, I tend to err on the side of understatement).
> But this is an oversimplification, of course, because emotional responses
> a story are highly subjective.  Sometimes we cry just because we've had a
> similar experience.  Sometimes it's because kicked puppies and abandoned
> infants are universally heartwrenching.  Sometimes it's that time of the
> month.  :)

True, indeed.

> Still, it's my belief that a great writer can create an
> emotional reaction even in someone who has never been in that situation
> before, simply by virtue of their writing skill.

Something to aim for. :-)
> >But I am possibly peculiar in demanding gut-wrenching emotional trauma.
> You realize at this point I must say "that's not the only thing that makes
> you peculiar...."

But of course.  I am peculiar in a wide variety in interesting ways (not
least of which is liking peanut-butter-and-bovril sandwiches).
> Having that requirement might be peculiar, but I think if you know a scene
> or situation ought to make you more emotionally involved than you are,
> that's not such an unreasonable demand.  I've known neophyte writers who
> believed that if they were feeling sad/happy/aroused when they wrote a
> scene, then everyone who read it would feel the same way.  It just doesn't
> work that way.  (Though this doesn't seem to stop a number of published
> authors who apparently never got this nonsense beaten out of them.)

Absolutely.  And on the one hand, there is the problem of "how do I convey
what I am feeling here?", while on the other hand it is rather difficult to
study how other writers do it when you are crying all over their work (e.g.
the end of Paul Gallico's "Jennie", which leaves me a soggy mess even when
I'm trying to analyse it!).

Anyone who thinks writing well is easy has obviously never tried it. :-)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at

"The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction."
-William Blake, "Proverbs of Heaven and Hell"

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