Braveheart. Titanic. Lord of the Rings. What do these movies (movies, not books) have in common? Besides great musical scores, they have what I call Gut Emotional Appeal. In other words, at some point, they get you in the gut. They make you pause and really pay attention. You really feel what just happened or is happening.
This moment isn't the same for everyone, but below I've included some examples from my personal experience.
I believe Gut Emotional Appeal - or GEA - can be a very powerful part of a novel. Certainly one can be successful without it, but I feel that it can give a novel that extra emotional punch that tips it over from a 4 star to a 5 star. If readers were in the habit of rating novels, that is.
How can I achieve GEA in my novels? What steps/methods should I follow?
- Braveheart. Braveheart features the (highly fictionalized) rebellion of the Scots against the English. Details about the end are below.
When Wallace is finally executed, he is asked if he will repent, to which, after a moment, he yells, "FREEDOM!!!" You feel it in the gut. It gets to you. Or at least to me.
- Titanic. Honestly this one probably comes from James Horner's excellent score. It's still worth noting though.
When the two main characters are in the water and slowly freezing to death, there's only room for one aboard the floating wreckage, meaning the other has to stay in the water and slowly freeze. When Rose finally lets him go, the music swells, and it gets you in the gut.
- Lord of the Rings. There are a lot of gut moments in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy. One that particularly stands out to me though is the scene in Two Towers (I think). Frodo and Same are in Osgiliath, and Sam, in an attempt to keep Frodo going, says that he thinks he understands the old tales now.
Sam: In those tales, folks had lots of chances of turnin' back, only they didn't because they were holding onto something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good left in this world Mister Frodo, and that it's worth fighting for.
You feel that Sam is right. You feel that the good left in the world is worth fighting for. But you (or I anyway) also feel driven to fight for it. It's that extra push that I'm after.
Notes, and what I've discovered:
- I develop and plan my novels extensively, so I'm looking more for steps or processes, rather than advice to implement while doing the actual writing. Both or good though.
- I feel that a very important part of GEA is that it be something that nearly everyone can sympathize with. Braveheart: Most people can sympathize with fighting in some measure against some sort of injustice. Titanic: People can generally sympathize with love. LotR: People generally want good to win out over evil.
- One can state a GEA scene in simple terms and it doesn't click. You don't feel the power. Note how in the above, what I listed didn't really have any power. What is missing? That's what I'm after.
- I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. I'm open to chat discussions if you want to compare notes and try to figure out how to create GEA.