I’m a pisces, but I only inherited the creative flake side of that zodiac sign. I did not inherit the over-emotional weepy side, or much semblance of emotional depth at all. I’m logic-oriented, which strikes most people as being cold, aloof, or even clueless about human interaction. For example, people wonder how I could consider something like a pre-nup, or why I always add the “if we broke up” caveat when I talk about my relationship. To an emotional person, my caution to trust my finances and future with my partner of four years means that “I don’t really love/trust him.”
Bollocks. It’s got nothing to do with love or trust. When I consider marriage, all I see is the 50% fail rate. Both my parents have been divorced twice and I’m not naive enough to think it can’t happen to me. But with all aspects of my life, I always have a Plan B. I don’t trust life to go right the first time. And because I hold others to high standards when it comes to their life choices (as in, not making dumb mistakes), I expect myself to do the same.
What’s this got to do with writing? Well, my logical objectivist mind doesn’t seem like a great conduit for creativity, does it? As I said yesterday, empathy is necessary for an author. To make readers have an emotional response, we must know how that response should feel. We must know what makes US feel that response. What makes us cry? What makes us angry? What makes us feel beauty?
I struggle with this sometimes. It’s not my nature to write from the heart. I write a web of plot from my mind. My characters are designed logically, featuring personality traits meant to manipulate the audience into liking and relating to them. I do try to create high emotional climaxes, as well as emotional depth in my characters, but it often misses the mark. Either betas don’t “get” that I was going for their heartstrings, or I made the characters emotional to the point of being whiny.
But emotions do inspire me. They might not result in full-length books, but they do result in ideas. My revulsion upon visiting Space X, and my fear for any future astronaut friends, is what inspired me to write my short story Goliath. When I was in a long-distance relationship, I wanted to write a story about longing. About being in a relationship that was very far apart, but perhaps not by physical distance (this turned into a plot bunny where one member of the couple slowly goes blind over the course of their life. The eventual lack of shared sight becomes a distance that creates longing). Fear is one of my most powerful emotions to draw from, because fear and anxiety are the two emotions of which I’m most capable. I rarely get angry or ecstatic. I rarely get melancholy. But I’m a worrier. And it’s the things I worry about that inspire pretty good stories for me. Many of my story ideas have a sense of “uhgh, hope that never happens to me…”
And don’t underestimate the emotion of caring. I love the projects I work on. I care about them deeply. That’s certainly an emotion, and I hope it’s obvious that my book is a labor of love. Perhaps it’s not an overt emotion on the page, but that love is subtext beneath the print. Most of my favorite works of fiction have an obvious amount of love put into them (Guardians of the Galaxy is a recent example) and it’s amazing how much quality that gives a story.
So I don’t think you need to be a bleeding heart in order to write good stories. If you have enough emotion to care about what you’re writing, that’s all the reader will see in the end.