The Quest For Emotionally Complex Moments

A couple of weeks ago, in the July AW Blog Chain to be exact, I dropped the “emotionally complex moment”  concept for the first time on this blog. I also promised that I would talk about it. Well, today is the day.

I guess writers start in the craft for different reasons; to express themselves, for the love of the story, to entertain, etc. The reason I get into art, and heaven knows I explore many of them regularly, is emotion. Be it through a picture, a melody or a word, what calls me is emotion.
I started with acting and I was 5 and a half. Those of you out there who are performer know, as well as I do, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a good crowd. They are willing to tag along with you as you navigate them through a rainbow of feelings, of emotions. And for every thrill you give them, you’ll receive it tenfold… if it’s a 10 people crowd. This emotional connection was what I craved every night. It sought me backstage and transformed any jitter I might have into exhilaration.
That’s the thing I miss the most about acting. *sighs* I had to make choices eventually.
Writing provides the same kind of connection, though it usually delayed.

From my point of view, the secret that makes a story memorable is the emotional complexity of its event. A lot of people say that characters make the story. I partially agree with them; rich characters tend to bring forth emotionally complex moments. Still, if you neglect the emotion, the plot will fall flat.
Now I keep winging this “emotionally complex” thing but what is it? In the crudest way, I would say it’s when the reader/watcher doesn’t know how to feel or, in other words, feels more than one emotion at once. There is no magical recipe to make that happen which is why finding these moments is a never-ending quest.

The scene I posted in the July AW Blog Chain is actually a soft example of an emotionally complex situation. First, the main character is conflicted. He hates himself but literally cannot do anything about it. That’s complex but not to a really strong point yet. It becomes truly interesting when the reader knows the whole situation, hates  – or is scared of – the character but, at the same time, feels for him. That’s emotionally complex.

Have any of you seen the movie P.S. I Love You ? If you really want to know what emotionally complex is, rent that movie. Now.
In a nutshell, Gerry (Gerard Butler) dies in the first few minutes of the movie, leaving his wife Holly (Hilary Swank) a widow. Holly is devastated, doesn’t know what to do with her life… she’s just lost without him. Until the day when she receives a letter from him. Gerry knows his wife perfectly and through an ingeniously crafted adventure, he uses his letters to bring her back to life. Literally.
It’s the most romantic thing possible. He’s so sweet. He sends her on a trip. He makes her laugh. He takes care of her. But he’s dead. Eventually, the letters are bound to stop and we’re back to square one.
While watching that movie, you bask in tenderness, you smile at the loveliness, you feel thankful for what Gerry is doing. You also hate him because there is no closure in the letters. He’s stretching the pain over months. You’d kill him all over again because he’s going to leave. For the second time.
You really love what he’s doing and you hate him for it.

That, dear reader, is emotionally complex.

About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

7 responses to “The Quest For Emotionally Complex Moments

  • Alyssa

    I loved that movie, for it is one of several that makes me realize the power of words. Of a story. And of sharing bits of your life, which ever way possible.
    It’s that way with writing as well, we share bits and pieces of ourselves, have it scattered accross the world, only to have so much more given back when someone says:
    Well Done.

    • Aheïla

      I totally agree with what you’ve said. Stories that powerful are the reason I write. A memorable book/movie/song/story is not just entertainment. It’s a feeling. It’s an emotion. Emotions are universal.

  • Sinking the Ship. « Alyssc01's Blog

    […] friend of mine wrote about The Quest for Emotionally Complex Moments, a topic which made me remember this piece of advice. I came to realize that this image of a boat, […]

  • scribadiva

    Bleedin’ Jehosaphats! My entire LIFE has been EC. That is what I’ve been detailing for 40 years of my life, in my journals. Did I tell you they are all gone–evil Landlord? In any case, ECM’s is the story of my life; I just can’t recapture the stories/plays/poems. But the truth of what it was based on, that I remember.
    Thank for for this phrase. I’m going to add it to my personal blog.
    Always rewarded when I visit here. I have a lot more stuff to discover here.
    Sweet, clean tides, Linda

    • Aheïla

      Hi Linda,
      ECMs are easy to stumble upon in life for anyone who cares. Carefree, head in the sand people will fly right past them. It takes strenght to live through ECMs.
      Translating that in writing, setting up a situation that will make the reader care and feel all the emotions is a daunting task. When done right, a story becomes memorable.
      Yes, you’ve told me about your landlord. Or maybe I’ve read it on your blog. It’s really a shame.
      Take care!

  • scribadiva

    Problem with your NetworkedBlogs. It worked for me earlier. Maybe Facebook is busy.

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