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The Morality of Pathos

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions The Morality of Pathos

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  • #102493
    Naiya Dyani
    @naiya-dyani

    Hey guys? I could /really/ use some advice.

    I love to write and read exciting fantasy/adventure stories. Yet I tend to run into trouble with scenes or stories that are filled with pathos. Like, if a character is being attacked, I get an emotional rush or thrill. And sometimes it feels like that goes to an unhealthy level.

    I’ve read the Tricky Subjects in Christian Fiction series and loved them. They were very helpful. Yet they left that question unaddressed with me that I’ve struggled with for a long time. When darkness is used to emphasize the light, it’s good to have in stories. Yet it seems like the emotional rush I get tends to drown out the true message that the darkness is meant to convey. Rather than seeing the darkness for the terrible thing it is, I just feel stuff and that’s it. Instead of seeing the light brighter for the darkness, it’s harder to see it at all or to see it nearly as bright as it should be through all the emotional fog.

    What am I supposed to do with this? I’ve thought of trying to focus on the reality of painful events in my stories rather than the simple, possibly melodramatic emotional appeal so I won’t end up romanticizing it. Sometimes that helps, but not always.

    Besides mental/emotional/spiritual health concerns, I’m also worried about this for my stories’ sake. If I end up centering my books around emotional charges, I’ll end up writing something like Twilight—it gets people to like it, but is a low-quality story that is missing important meat. Emotion should further a story, not be a story.

    If anyone has advice, I’m welcoming it with open arms. I really don’t want to have to stop reading and writing because of this, but if I have to I will.

    I should also note that I have a /really/ easily wounded conscience. I’ve felt crippling guilt over things I really shouldn’t have worried about much at all, and sometimes it’s hard for me to tell when God is trying to warn me about something, when I’m just overreacting, or if I have a problem but I’m exploding it into something bigger than it really is. So if you think this might be something like that, please let me know, but it feels to me like this is an actual problem. The question is, how big a deal is it really and what should I do about it?

    I’m going to tag a few of the leaders and here, but seriously, if anyone has something to say, please say it. @josiah @daeus-lamb @hope-ann

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Naiya Dyani.

    Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

    #102495
    K.M. Small
    @morreafirebird

    @naiya-dyani

    I don’t fully have an answer for this, but I can say I’ve struggled with the same question quite a bit. It got to the point where I’ve temporarily stopped reading YA novels (which are full of these “emotional rewards”) until I understand the issue more fully. It feels like an unhealthy emotional indulgence, and I’m trying to figure out just what it is that creates that; I’ve read other novels that certainly have emotion, but it feels more rightly ordered than what I find in some other novels.

    Just to put the question into context, I’m wondering if you find yourself feeling this way only when reading a particular genre? For instance, is it mainly just in young adult books, or is it even in stories like Lord of the Rings?

    In general, I think pathos is meant to aid a story’s message by speaking to the reader on an emotional level in addition to an intellectual level. When we experience something emotionally, we often tend to be more impacted than if we understand it intellectually. For instance, in the Iliad, (spoiler alert) we may be able to grasp in our minds that Hector is dead. But because the Iliad is a story and utilizes emotion, we’re moved a lot more by the feeling that Hector is dead than the fact, if that makes sense. Because of the pathos of the story (and that scene), the message of the story is more impactful. However, I do think that pathos can be overused until it becomes — as you said — the story itself.

    I might have more thoughts on this later, but I’m curious as to what other people have to say 🙂

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    #102516
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Well, it might help to study stories that are really good at presenting goodness. Not that darkness doesn’t have its place, but without a good grasp of how to display goodness, you potentially face imbalance. I immediately think of Cry the Beloved Country and, though I haven’t read them in a while, I heard someone say the same thing of the Narnia books.

    😀
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    #102556
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    @naiya-dyani

    Ah, I get you, girl! I used to do the same thing, though honestly I don’t think I ever fully realized it until I looked back and was like, whoa, that wasn’t good! What (I believe) pulled me out of it was just reading a lot of really quality books that weren’t overly emotion-filled. (And I read a ton, like 200-600 books/year +, lol.)

    When you are immersed in a lot of seriously quality stories, you start to become impacted by the subtler things in the story- and you no longer feel that rush when you read highly emotionally-charged scenes or whatever else, because it no longer has the same value. The subtle things in the story are what really come out and hit you, and make the story real and unique, but it doesn’t give the same rush.

    At least that’s what I’ve found. XD And there’s a lot of really, really good books out there like that, I just feel like many of them are not well known. I can recommend some if you want, or there’s quite a few on my Goodreads account if you use that. Here’s me: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/42075278-selah-chelyah

    Thoughts? I may have missed what you were trying to say, as well. 😛

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    #102557
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    I think pathos and emotion are really good, and even super important in a story, but in moderation. Everything today is so overdramatized, and it’s hard to get away from that! Not bad things, just too much of a good thing. 🙂

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    #102569
    Naiya Dyani
    @naiya-dyani

    @morreafirebird I kind of let out a deep breath and smiled when I saw your post! 😊 It’s so good knowing I’m not the only one. . .

    I haven’t read Lord of the Rings (it’s on my list because so many writers have sung its praises on here!), but I will say that it can show up anywhere if there’s a situation that could allow for it. However, YA does tend to be more rife with such situations. 😛


    @daeus-lamb
    *rubs hands* Ha ha, Cry the Beloved Country has now arrived at the library for me as a result of your advice. 😊


    @selah-chelyah
    *mouth falls open* That. . . is solid! Just because of that, I finally started a Goodreads account and sent you a friend request (if that’s what they’re called there??) 😅. Heh heh, now to stalk your favorite books. . . (No, I’m not creepy! Why would you say that? XD)

    Like I said, this is something I’ve struggled with for a long time–talking about it repeatedly with my mom (my go-to counselor [helps that she actually had a course or minor or something related to counseling in college lol]), making very little progress, ending up back at the keyboard/page wanting to keep reading but not sure if I should. I really hope this helps! Thanks, girl! 😊

     

    (Also, just so no one misunderstands this, I’m not trying to say I’ve got the issue completely settled and don’t need any more advice. If you have some, please share it! 😛 Plus, ya know, clearly I’m not the only one who’s dealt with this, so. . .)

     

    Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

    #102842
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    @naiya-dyani

    Aw, nice! I’ll friend you. 😀 Glad I understood what you were trying to say.

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

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