Wednesday, June 16, 2010


You won't hear me say it very often, so you maybe ought to mark the calendar, but Mr. Tart was right. Joel was itchy because of FLEAS! I've been scratching since I heard—I can't shake the feeling they are ON me... You see, the fact is though... that he has been itchy for... a month or more? Must be more, as I think he's had 3 baths and we don't do that at home more than about every other week at most... But ONLY NOW—Now that I KNOW—am I itchy. And it won't stop.

I get that way when I see swarming ants on TV, a really big spider outside (a really big spider inside spikes my adrenaline and throws me into fight or flights, so that is probably the only way I evade THAT one).

Does this have to do with being ticklish?

I mentioned this on my personal facebook profile, so of course my considerate friends add LICE to the mix.--now I'm not just itchy, but shuddering. I mean... ick.

[and here the editor would like to note:  The EVIL Tart has been  awakened... we don't see her much--you probably shouldn't encourage her.  She's quite as insane as the other one, but possibly dangerous.]
Evil Tart SMITES your warning and carries on!

How is it we pass along these sensations in absence of the actual stimulus? Can we USE IT?!


The second scary book I read (right after The Shining) was Amityville Horror. It was one of those paperbacks with the pressed texture in the cover... you know what of? FLIES. I thought that was a FREAKING TERRIFYING book and I'm willing to bet the shivers from feeling those blasted flies on the book played no small part... that was one of the first signs of the house being haunted.... flies. They could hear them and couldn't find them. They would see ONE. They would see a COUPLE. Then something was covered in flies.

You SEE the build?—something has an eerie feel, then it keeps reappearing as a theme, each time bigger. Holy crap, I keep shuddering just remembering and I was 12.  I can't even LOOK at the stupid book cover... (note though, that I am making YOU)

Stephen King does it in The Shining with both Jack (all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy) and Danny (Redrum). But I think the use in Amityville Horror strikes me so hard because... a fly, so what? I mean hearing voices and speaking in tongues (or whatever the explanation for Redrum is) isn't normal stuff. FLIES are normal (if repulsive). But add to it 'off season' and it becomes ODD. Just that. Making an ordinary thing ODD, makes it so the reader gets more and more creeped out, each trime they see it. That is the key... the reader isn't just READING it, they are FEELING it.

What Other Emotions Can We Manipulate?

(So long as we're being evil and all...*shifty*) Longing? I've seen it with both longing for a person and a place... a lost dream—any emotion that can be heightened by a memory, really, which makes it a useful device for romance, chick lit, ALL of the darker genres. I've seen it in Sci Fi—it is different in a way—Ender's Game and the game he keeps trying to beat—we feel his obsession—he keeps coming back to it. That is handy there, as Ender isn't a kid who seems very NORMAL, so making us feel his feelings was a necessary step, and possibly one of the reasons Orson Scott Card has a broader readership than a lot of Sci Fi.

And Why be So Rotten to our Readers?

Because we CAN! BUWAHAHAHAHA Okay, and maybe so the triumphs our characters finally manage are ALSO felt—because being touched is what so many readers really CRAVE (and they can get TIRED of touching themselves). I guess it is all about truly engaging a readership and we need to tap emotion to do it.

But... Can't you tap emotion... NICELY?

NO! And stop asking! *squishes evil Tart back into her box*  Honestly, I think you CAN. I think truly TOUCHING scenes tap emotion, but oddly, so does humor. I am, to this day convinced that the KIDS books I read that I loved so much I wanted to read over and over and over were because they were FUNNY. That is what a kid story offers the parent... The Series of Unfortunate Events and it's thirteen volume grammar joke—BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I LOVE those books, and it's not because the story is so great... but it is TOLD SO WELL!

But really, my favorite genius at this is JK Rowling. Her discussion of the Dursleys and their insistence on 'normal' when everything around them is going haywire had me sold right from the beginning... but then so did the tears at the end of chapter one... Harry, the boy who lived.

She uses simple language and the EXTREMES of our emotion-- me giggling madly at the owl fest behind Vernon's back, and this orphaned baby—the tale of his parents' death... the contrast is amazing...

So how do all of you try to tap the emotion of your reader—suck them in so they don't just see it, but send them a shiver, or a tear, or a literal LOL? Any plans?


Ted Cross said...

I'm not certain whether I do this well or not yet, as I have few readers. I do think I need to learn how to draw out tension better. Playing on specific emotions is tough for me. I think I do it most with fear.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I hope I do this. At least I try my best. The best way to do it though is to never say how yout characters are feeling. Just show how they react. Sounds simple, but it's quite hard to master. Only took me 6 years ;o)

Bridge Marie said...

Great post, Tami. Oh course, now I feel all gross. Lovely tie-in to evoking emotions in readers, and I think you nailed what makes JK work. She gets you invested in the story with the humor and enchantment of everything, and then the heartbreak in the story is that much more effective (Fred Weasley, anyone?).

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I do write at least one scary scene each book. I try to go for the visceral reaction or the hairs standing up at the back of the neck type thing. Someone's in the house...we think. Although we haven't heard anything...somethings's just not right.

Old Kitty said...


I am extremely new to your blog and am dazzled by the big circles!

I'm trying to figure out who Evil Tart is and whether Mr Tart are one and the same. Also I am presuming Joel is a sweetie kitty or doggie that now has fleas. Which isn't very nice all round!

Anyway - emotional manipulation of readers. Hmmm. Subtlely is always good - like the fly scenario - its so true. You think, fly? so what but get them off season and get millions of them.. then you start to worry!

Take care

Will Burke said...

Yet another skill for this nivice to be mindful of. As I recall, "the boy who lived..."segment got my eyes a little wet, great example!

Watery Tart said...

Ted & Jessica--I am with you--TRYING this--though honestly, it is still something for the rewrite--I am not meticulous enough in my first drafts to do anything so clever, but I've got a few places in works sitting in my 'to edit' pile that I think it would fit NICELY.

Bridge-it's so true, how emotionally invested! Poor Fred, but poor ALL OF US because we loved him!

Elizabeth *shivers* Yeah... that someone MIGHT be in the house thing! It's even more effective not to know, isn't it?

Old Kitty--WELCOME! And erm... sorry about the circles if they are causing readability problems--I think it is the new Explorer they have trouble with and I have a PLAN to make them go away, but I need a day to commit to just blog layout, because the other layouts I like require a whole bunch of other shifting...

Mr. Tart is my hubby, and the Evil Tart is my alter ego--she seems to be trying to mount a coup...

Will-I think that phrase is PARTIALLY so powerful because of the implications of all the OTHERS who DIDN'T live. Then again, JK ROwling pretty much can do no wrong in my opinion.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Gross! Fleas and Flies and Lice *shuuuuudder* I'm really good at evoking emotion in real life, like scary good. But I haven't quite figured out how to work that magic on the paper. It gets two-dimensional on me, but I'm working on it. I am best at humor and urgency (youbetterruntheclockisrunningoutoftimeomggogogogoyouwontmakeitruuuun) don't read with a full bladder. Working on the others.

Talli Roland said...

Ah! Just looking at the cover of the Amityville House makes me shiver!

I don't write horror scenes - or even scary ones, generally. I wind up scaring myself!

Embarrassing story: After I watch 'The Sixth Sense', I had to wake my boyfriend up to take me down the hall to the loo because I was too scared I might run into ghosts!

Watery Tart said...

Erica, that's a fabulous skill to be able to do pace like that. I hit it sometimes, but I'm not sure I'm great at MAKING it happen. I could definitely use some work there.

Talli--too funny! You don't LIKE being spooked? I actually like it quite a bit--the book/movie scared, not real fear, but I am obvivious enough (that ignorant optimism thing) that with real fear, I sort of step out of it and stay calm until it's over.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I remember that book cover. Thought the movie was creepy as well until I saw it as an adult - then I laughed.

Watery Tart said...

Alex- The movie missed the mark. They tried to hard and totally missed the really great subtlety that the book nailed and made it so scary. Though I also admit I haven't read the BOOK in all this time--it's possible it seemed so scary because it was early on my list of scary books.

Cold As Heaven said...

Lice is a recurring problem in my boy's school. Apparently, It's more common today than 30 years ago when I was in school. I think that's not the case. What happens is that today people dare to talk about it, to warn friends and class mates, In the old days, it was a shame, and no one talked about it. >:)

Deb and Barbara said...

After I watched The Mothman -- which seriously creeped me out -- I was tossing and turning, and then heard a MOTH in my closet. I swear I thought it was a sign of the apocalypse. I couldn't move. Lay hostage in my bed...

As for pace -- I've been extremely conscious of that lately: how much pace affects the emotion of the reader/audience. No matter how true and good your choices are, if the pace is off, the emotion is subverted. A friend of mine was editing a short film she'd made and asked for feedback. There was a climactic, emotional moment near the end and I could feel the tears coming -- but then the moment cut away to something else and I didn't get my catharsis. When I told her this, she was SO relieved because she and her editor got teary every time they viewed it, but none of their audience had -- with the exception of one viewer who had seen it once before (and the first time she saw it, she hadn't cried). My friend realized she had to edit the climax to give more time to the viewer to catch up with emotion in order to give in to it.

Sorry such a long post, but it is sooo interesting to connect these dots as writers (even if it doesn't give the exact math!).


Ezmirelda said...

I’m giving you a blogger award because your blog’s one of the best that I’ve read. :)

Watery Tart said...

CaH-I think lice may be more common for reasons of both crowding and Darwinism--I think lice, like bacteria, are developing more resistant strains. That said, NOW, if ONE person in a school has it, a notice goes to EVERYONE, which is really different from 30 years ago when you only knew if somebody gossipy got word.

Barbara-someone ELSE to spot pacing stuff is CRITICAL--Mari, from my writer's group pointed out some pacing stuff in the second half of my first book and it helped a ton. As WRITER, we KNOW what comes next, but the reader doesn't! I should see Moth Man! I love a good creep out!

Ezmirelda, thank you so much! I'm honored! Headed right over!

Ellie said...

eeew, now I feel bugs on me, thanks a lot ;-D

I agree, the reality of Amityville scared me more
than the madness of The Shining. I was scared I might wake up at 3:17, the time of the murder.
Haunted me for awhile...
I haven't written scary, yet, not in this form...
fun to try though! OH, yes, Moth Man, has a great