As a new author I find myself analyzing the media I consume a lot differently than I always have. This isn’t a matter of suspension of disbelief, I find I am still good with that, but rather a matter of trying to figure out the ingredients. It’s a big thing when you first start taking the craft of stories seriously. Harry Potter and The Matrix have the same basic plotline? Who knew! It is at first one part a magical revelation followed by a good bit of confusion as you try to understand how to incorporate this. Tables usually have four legs and a big flat plane on top of them, amazing, knowing that much at least prevents you from attempting to revolutionize the table industry with your three legged spikey spined creations.
So how do you make a table stand out from all the other tables? It is hardly a new struggle, from sugary drinks to actual tables people are forever trying to figure that out. In terms of books I keep coming back to the answer that emotional engagement seems to be key, can you make people feel?
Now, I’m kind of an unfeeling emotionless bastard so the whole idea of making people feel is a bit worrying. I mean I’ve quite literally driven comedians into a panic state on stage by being that member of the audience who is completely stone faced and staring at them while they do routine with never a laugh or a smile escaping me. I’m that guy. So I have to ask myself what moves me reliably.
In terms of books the one that always seemed to have the most impact on me is Battlefield Earth. I’m not sure what about that story grips me, there is a weak romance that almost seems to be an afterthought and bad guys that relatively speaking are less vile than those in other works. I like one against the world stories, and for all that Battlefield Earth does not end that way that is how it starts and it does it on a grand scale.
The movie with the greatest emotional impact for me would have to be the Truman Show, which I know, I know, makes just about zero sense. Every single time though when he is in the boat being lashed by storms with the director watching on my completely unemotional self bawls his eyes out. This one is really mystifying and I don’t understand why it hits me the way it does. If I try to quantify it I wind up with something about that being the moment that the man truly becomes something more, he challenges everything he knows and faces his deepest fears in an attempt to escape from the reality created for him. The director is a father and a God rolled into one, one both watching proudly as his creation destroys the world created to house him and very nearly killing him because it shouldn’t be easy. Because to truly matter, to truly be what he wants to be Truman has to suffer.
That is what I wind up babbling but it feels like that can’t be right. It feels like emotional responses should be more basic than that, more primal.
What scenes or books always hit you in the gut? Always get a reaction?