British author Colin Wilson highlights a critical aspect of art when he writes, “A work of art holds an emotion as a bottle holds wine.”
We read books to enrich our emotional lives by living vicariously through the moving experiences of a novel’s characters. (Image: public domain.)
Writers should never underestimate the novel’s vitally important role as an emotional mechanism. A novel is a “device” to make people feel. Therefore, when planning and writing each scene we need to ask ourselves what emotion we wish to arouse in the reader and toward which character or setting we want to direct the feeling. Paying attention to these two tasks will ensure each scene has the right kind of well-focussed emotion. Our scenes will seem satisfying and have weight.
How do we handle the novel’s cerebral aspects, its “message?” Most people are not intellectually inclined and even fewer enjoy a sermon. Readers will not tolerate long-winded theoretical or ideological explanations. We must transmit all content of an intellectual nature to the reader via the “carrier wave” of feelings. As we search for some emotional way to convey an idea, we should keep in mind that all thoughts carry a mood or feeling just as all emotions have thoughts for companions. The human mind stores its information in what the scientists call emotional-cognitive structures. Note carefully the term’s hybrid nature, the blend of feeling and idea. By wrapping our ideas in a suitable emotional package, we can deliver them to all readers.
The objective at all times is to keep the reader involved. Writers must establish and maintain a continuous current of interest. Providing emotional variety in our scenes is the best way to accomplish this. Weave different strands of feeling together from one scene to another to produce both variety and harmony. Remember, people read to nourish themselves emotionally, to experience the feelings they lack in their everyday lives. Feed them.