Sunday, May 5, 2013

17009--Got Heart?

Heart, it's what's for dinner.  No, seriously, it's just something that's been on my mind.  It sounds like a strange place for a heart, but it's far from the worst.

Is it too bluntly stating the obvious to point out that stories with heart are the ones that touch our hearts the most?  Maybe.  Is that like using the word to define the word?  Should that be disallowed?

Whatever you won't allow me to call it, the way you reach into your audience's mind to tug at those heartstrings can make the difference between a well-told story and one that falls flat or repels.  Whether straightforward words, subtle metaphor or flowered imagery, the narrative you offer will set a particular tone.  Showing that which you would communicate through a character's dialogue and actions can open or close accessibility faster than paragraphs of prose.  Too light a touch will yield an emotionless product that no one will care about and may not even finish when readers find they can't connect with the characters.

This sort of complaint has often been made by people who decry science fiction and adventure fiction as being unappealing.  For some of those people, I have seen this dilemma remedied by adding the right amount of heart to the mix.  Getting this balance right has been a boon to publishing and film as certainly as getting it wrong has been their bane.  Getting it wrong can be the result of too much emotion as certainly as too little.

I suppose it can be blamed on pandering to the times, but I think Shakespeare missed the mark with Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice".  Rather than just giving a portrayal of an "evil jew" as was apparently expected, his usually quick wit should have provided a heartfelt twist.  Where Shylock had been bitter and raging for justice, he could finally have taken his pound of flesh in the form of Antonio's heart, allowing him to keep it but insisting that he use it to extend his "Christian" love to the Jewish people. 

Instead, all we get is anger and bitterness coming at us in such an unrelenting fashion that it really hurts the story as a whole.  The court scene repels when it could have uplifted and redeemed.  How?  Heart.

You knew that.  What else have I been going on about after all?  Do your best.  It's not always easy, but it is worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post and I agree,apart from the Shakespeare amendment perhaps. I once shared a creative writing course with a chap who wrote instruction manuals and, if I remember right, had turned his to science fiction. I learned loads from trying to explain to him what was missing. I write poetry and my challenge has always been to switch the poet off or risk giving a reader a migraine. Instead, as you suggest, I try lean more on mannerisms, dialogue and less is more, but it certainly isn't easy.