Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whether to laugh or cry

Last night I posed this question on Twitter: Do you prefer a book that makes you laugh or cry?

Several people said "laugh." But most people said "both." (Crying, by itself, didn't get many votes.)

I've been thinking about that message: both. I think we appreciate books that have the emotional richness of life. In life, we often share a smile or a teary laugh even at funerals; we may feel a pang of sadness even at the happiest times. We deal with tragedies and comedies back to back, and sometimes simultaneously.

It makes me think that a good test for a writer to apply to a manuscript is this: Does this story hit only one emotional note--and if so, is that what I really want? Or does it evoke several different emotions?


  1. To me, emotional power is one of the most important aspects of any story. Whether it be sadness, happiness, anger, horror or despair, it is those moments that effect you. If you feel like someone has ripped out your heart, or punched you in the stomach, or made you float off the ground with joy, you'll always remember it.

  2. Great question. Seems like hitting more than one believable emotional note is important. It was a great question.

  3. My responders took me in a direction I hadn't anticipated. I was thinking "laugh or cry," and people really made me think when they said "both!"

    Thanks for commenting, Laura and Alexia!