The sight of Cedric, dead on the ground

Read this snippet carefully and notice how it affects you.

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.

How do you feel when you read this snippet? What makes you feel the way you do?
  • Characters: Harry and Mrs Weasley.
  • Conflict: Taking the potion.
  • Context: Death of a friend during a magical competition.

Overall, you might say it's comforting:

  • It features gentle, comfort-words such as set, bedside, arms, hugged, mother, held.
  • The snippet is evenly paced.
  • It's quite static, apart from Harry's visions.

This snippet clearly communicates the character emotion: we know that Harry is feeling grief.

  • Trigger: Mrs Weasley hugs Harry like a mother.
  • Emotion: Grief and misery.
  • Thoughts: Comparing Mrs Weasley to a mother, memories of his dead parents, and Cedric, dead on the ground.
  • Feelings: Heavy weight, spinning head, can't bear it, howl trying to get out of him.
  • Behaviour: Screwing up his face against the howl of misery.

While this scene has contrasting emotions, we feel the comforting mood but we don't feel Harry's grief.

Why might that be?

  • Maybe Harry's emotions are so extreme, we can't match them.
  • Maybe the image of him "screwing up his face against the howl of misery" is too mechanical and puppet-like; maybe it puts us at arms length from Harry.
  • Maybe it just doesn't work to flash images at us: "his mother's face, his father's voice, the sight of Cedric"—sure maybe these things affect Harry but they don't affect us for some reason.

Distance and restraint

We saw in some of the photos earlier that we tend to feel our own emotions when we the image gives us a little more space.

In stories, there are equivalents of this: pulling back and watching from a distance, and showing restraint in the description.

Emotionally effective writing often understates the situation, and we as readers fill the vacuum with our own feelings.

From that perspective, maybe this snippet pushes Harry's feelings too hard on us, and doesn't leave room for us to feel ourselves.