What we're going to do

Alright, it's time to put what we've learned into practice.

You're going to write a checkpoint piece that attempts to evoke some kind of big emotion in the reader, something they can feel for themselves, beyond what the characters on the page are feeling.

Ideally, we want to aim for something as affecting as the Watership Down snippet.

But that's a big challenge, so let's figure out how we're going to do it.

What's a situation that is likely to evoke emotion in the reader?

Let's think about the snippets we read in this lesson.

One thing we saw in all the snippets was a contrast between the character's emotions and their context.

For example:

  • Character is shown kindness amidst trauma (Harry Potter)
  • Character persists in the face of adversity (Rocket Boys)
  • Character dreams of a life different to their reality (Mango Street)
  • Character wins something but is aware of a loss (Furia)
  • Character is dying but celebrates life (Watership Down)

In the photos we saw another type of contrast, between the subject's experience and our point of view:

  • Character is focused but we are impressed (Strongman at zoo)
  • Character is happy but we are afraid (Post-it monster)
  • Character is tired but we are amused (Sleeping fruit seller, relaxing chicken)
  • Character is comforted but we are depressed (Comforting arm)

So let's work with one of these situations.

Look again at the snippet from Harry Potter:

Mrs Weasley set the potion down on the bedside cabinet, bent down, and put her arms around Harry. He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother. The full weight of everything he had seen that night seemed to fall in upon him as Mrs Weasley held him to her. His mother's face, his father's voice, the sight of Cedric, dead on the ground, all started spinning in his head until he could hardly bear it, until he was screwing up his face against the howl of misery fighting to get out of him.

In terms of evoking emotion in the reader, this is arguably one of the weakest snippets we read.

The snippet tries so hard to describe Harry's distress that it comes off strained and fake, and Harry looks like a puppet more than a person.

It creates interest, but not much empathy or emotion in the reader.

So let's take this snippet and see if we can amplify the emotion that the reader feels.