Rocket boys, forever

Read this snippet carefully and notice how it affects you.

"O'Dell, cut it out," I broke in. "We're a team here, remember? Quentin, work on it. We'll get back together after miners' vacation. All agreed?"

"Hell, yes," Roy Lee said. "Did you see the way our rocket flew? So what if it didn't go straight? We're doing good here!"

"Roy Lee's got it right," I said. "We're making progress." I put out my hand, palm down. "Come on, put your hand on mine, like the football team does." 

One by one, Sherman, O'Dell, Roy Lee, and Quentin solemnly placed their hands one on top of the other, all on top of mine. "Rocket boys," I said. "Rocket boys forever!"

How do you feel when you read this snippet? What makes you feel the way you do?
  • Characters:  Homer, Roy Lee, and the boys.
  • Conflict: Trying to boost morale in the face of failure.
  • Context: Boys making their own rockets in mining town.

The overall mood is optimistic, determined

  • Lots of positive communal words: team, agreed, work, good, right, progress, hell yes.
  • Also phrases that indicate struggle: cut it out, remember?, so what if, come on, solemnly.
  • It has a steady rhythm in the dialogue: boom boom boom... boom.

The communal words and struggle words combine to create that mood of courage and determination, reinforced by the decisive rhythm.

This snippet is interesting because even though it's almost all dialogue, we have a clear sense of what people are feeling: Homer and Roy Lee are trying to reinforce the team's courage after a setback.

  • Trigger: Teammates arguing after a failed rocket launch.
  • Feelings: Not mentioned.
  • Thoughts (in dialogue): We're a team, it flew better than expected, so what if it didn't go straight, we're doing good.
  • Emotions (some in dialogue): Commitment, courage, solemnity.
  • Behaviour (some in dialogue): Rally the team, set a new meeting time, get everyone to put their hands together and cheer.

If this snippet makes us feel anything, it might be because the contrast between the failed rocket, the bickering team, and Homer and Roy's commitment to keeping everyone going adds emotional weight to the solemnity of the boys putting their hands together.

Notice how restrained the snippet is: it doesn't put us inside any of the characters, and it doesn't directly describe anyone's feelings. The thoughts and emotions are communicated in dialogue, with 'solemnly' the only emotional label. 

We watch boys try to boost each other's spirits in the face of adversity, and we feel boosted too because we can see how hard that is to do.