What do emotions do in a story?
To find some answers, let's start with the image below, which is an expression of an emotion:
What's this character feeling?
You can probably tell this character looks shocked or startled.
How do we know?
By itself this panel is just a representation of an emotion at a moment in time.
What happens when we extend the time and add context?
(Right-click and open the image in a new tab to see a bigger version.)
Now we can see the character, Susano-o, going through three emotions: focused, confused, shocked.
With more context we have new questions:
Let's answer the first question: where was Susano-o going?
Now we know Susano-o was hunting for the Serpent of Koshi—and the locals said he would be killed.
Well, here's what happens after Susano-o's shocked expression:
These questions are central to narrative:
For this scene, Stan Sakai gives us the following answer:
Susano-o responds like a badass: he’s brave, determined, reaching for his sword.
If we put all these panels in the correct order, we have a brief story sequence (right-click to see a bigger version):
(From Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 12: Grasscutter by Stan Sakai)
Now we can describe this story as a series of events:
But do you notice how lifeless that sounds?
Now let's list those events but include Susano-o's emotions:
Do you notice how this version feels more alive?
One function of character emotions is to help you make sense of what is going on by explaining how characters feel about the world around them.
Let's look at how different emotions create different meanings.
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