Thursday, September 28, 2006

An overview of emotion

This blog has now been running for over two years, and if you were to go back and read it through from the beginning you would find that there is one topic which is mentioned over and over again. That topic is emotion.

Somewhere around 1958, I met a man on a train who was a schoolmaster by profession but who was also a published writer. We got to talking about writing. I mentioned that I had ambitions in that line myself (I was very young and foolish), and he advised me to read a book called Narrative Technique, by Thomas H. Uzzell. (The book was first published in 1923 and is long since out of print, but it's still worth buying if you can find an old copy.)

In due course I did read Uzzell's book, and Uzzell revealed to me that the whole point of fiction is that it generates emotion in the reader: that is why readers value it. My major conclusion at that point in my development was therefore that, if I wished to succeed as a 'creative writer', I had better (a) learn as much as I could about emotion, and (b) learn as much as I could about how to create emotion in readers or drama audiences.

The result is that, for nearly fifty years, I have been reading anything I could lay my hands on which dealt with human emotion and writing techniques. And gradually, my reading and learning have begun to organise themselves into several different areas:

1. The scientific study of emotion itself.

2. The problems of fictional narrative technique: i.e. how to make the reader feel an emotion.

3. The impact of emotion on writers: notably, the negative effects of rejection; and

4. The role of emotion in general physical and mental health.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you will have noticed that, whenever possible, I review books which cover these topics; and, as indicated at the head of this post, I have already dealt with the four topics at some length, in several stand-alone essays. The purpose of today's post is therefore to point you towards some of the material related to emotion which already exists on this blog, and to give you information about other sources of information which you might wish to pursue.

A central plank in the edifice which we are to construct today is Chapter 5 of my non-fiction book The Truth about Writing. And if you want a fairly quick and simple guide to everything that I've learnt about emotion and writing in the last fifty years, then you should read that chapter.

For months, if not years, I have been muttering about making available a free PDF copy of The Truth about Writing, and now, at last, I've done it. Click here for details. Chapter 5 begins on page 133.

In the meantime, here is a 5-minute guide to relevant posts on this blog and to outside sources of useful information.

1. The scientific study of emotion

Fortunately (or unfortunately), it has not proved too difficult or demanding for me to keep up with scientific research in the area of human emotion, because, for all practical purposes, there isn't any.

See my discussion of such data as are available beginning on page 143 of Truth. There I discuss Dylan Evans's book, Emotion: the Science of Sentiment. This is quite a short book, and it summarises what scientists have discovered about emotion in the last hundred years or so. (Precious little, it turns out.)

You will find that I also mention Candace Pert's book, The Molecules of Emotion, in which a genuine practitioner of 'hard' science (measuring things) tells us what she has discovered.

Another relevant book is Dylan Evans's Placebo, discussed here on 13 July 2004, in the course of a general discussion of the need for writers to produce emotion in an audience.

Why this paucity of scientific research, you may wonder. The answer is that emotion is hard to put under the microscope, hard to measure, and hard, even, to define. Since scientists build their reputations by doing experiments which produce hard data, which can then be replicated by other scientists, they soon realise that there is no professional future in the study of emotions, and they back off. The volume of research in this area, compared with almost anything else you care to mention, is tiny.

2. Fictional narrative technique

There is no better source of information on how to create emotion in the reader than Uzzell's Narrative Technique (mentioned above), if you can find it. Also good is his 1959 book, The Technique of the Novel. But you will find a handy summary of Uzzell's theories, plus my own take on how to put them into effect, in Chapter 5 of my book Truth, beginning on page 156.

There are, of course, numerous other books on writing techniques and I must have read at least a couple of hundred of them myself. But very few remain on my bookshelves. One that does is Albert Zuckerman's Writing the Blockbuster Novel; it's a much more subtle and thoughtful book than it sounds.

3. The impact of emotion on writers

My third area of interest is the impact of emotions on writers.

As the years passed, I gradually came round to the view that writing is a pretty dangerous business. And The Truth about Writing was mainly written to warn writers -- particularly young and naive writers -- about what they are letting themselves in for.

The first paragraph of the book reads as follows: 'Writing is an activity which can seriously damage your health. It can consume huge amounts of time and energy, and it can lead to frustration, rage, and bitterness. The overall purpose of this book is therefore to protect and preserve the sanity of anyone who is unfortunate enough to be afflicted with the ambition to write.'

And I was not kidding. If you want to understand how dangerous to your health writing can be, read my review of Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. And for a couple of cases where the pressures of the writing world proved fatal, read Ross and Tom 1, and the follow-up, Ross and Tom 2.

4. The role of emotion in general physical and mental health

Finally, the impact of emotion on physical and mental health in the population at large.

To get a feeling for that, you will need to dip into some of the books already mentioned: Dylan Evans on Emotion and Placebo; Candace Pert on The Molecules of Emotion; and Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.

But the best account (in my view) of how powerful emotions impact upon the mental and physical health of all individuals is, of course, Dr Sarno's book The Divided Mind, which I reviewed on 5 September.

Later note: If you are interested in learning more about Dr Sarno, there is now a wiki-type site which contains a great deal of useful information. In particular, it contains many first-hand reports by former pain sufferers who explain how Dr Sarno's ideas, and his practical suggestions for treatment, have helped them to feel better. I warmly recommend it. The web address is tmswiki.org.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read avidly and for some time in my younger egocentric years thought I wanted to be a writer but basically all I did was talk about it. I didn't have the grit or really the talent to succeed so I stuck to reading.
The power of some novels has over the years had an enormous emotional impact on me and the books have stayed with me long after I've closed the last page. Kaled Hosseini's book The Kite Runner, A Jarful of Angels by Babs Horton and Arundati Roys God of small things were three such books that I've read recently. They were able to reach the child in me and the result was so powerful; I wept like a fool at times, laughed like a seven year old at others. Yet I have read 'real life' stories about kids in distress and been left cold. Do you think that writers like Hosseini etc are aware of their impact and do they consciously use 'Devices' to get a reaction. Or is it just good writing written from the heart? Getting in touch with your own emotions through reading feels therapeutic to me and I always feel better mentally. I hope writing the books gives authors the same lift.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the PDF, which I now have safely on my computer. Interestingly, your Chapter 5 successfully evoked considerable emotion--I assuredly look forward to re-reading it more carefully.

I recently referred a writer to your "Slush Pile" essay, and received the interesting response, "I'm too busy writing to read something by someone I don't know."

Now there's a thought--and a bit frightening. I wish I were so lucky. Thank you again for making this available to us as well.

Anonymous said...

I am sometimes told that, as a writer, I need to develop a thick skin (in relation to harsh criticism, rejection, manuscripts that have to be abandoned and all the other things you have mentioned as being the writer's lot). But as a writer I also have to be thin-skinned too - overly sensitive as I see it - in order to successfully convey emotion.

Is this the divided mind, I wonder - perhaps the more divided the better.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful.
Are you going to write a round-up on "randomness" soon? I'd love to read that.

Art Durkee said...

There's a book several years ago that is all about research into emotion. It's fairly rigorous, but remains somewhat controversial.

Dr. Manfred Clynes, "Sentics: The touch of the emotions."

http://senticcycles.org/

I first encountered this work when it was referenced in George Leonard's book "The Silent Pulse," which remains one of the best books on states of mind I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of comments on emotion.

First, is there such a thing as a 'mind' and if there is where is it? I think the answer is: it's many in parts of the brain, hence part of the body. The mind/body split might have been useful before we began to understand the chemical and electrical processes of the brain but I think neuro-psychology is chipping away at it.

Next, your example of the Holmes joke is a good one and illustrates the different levels of emotion. As far as I know all animals feel fear through our reptillian brain; some feel happiness (dogs clearly can be happy or sad), but only humans experience 'intellectual' emotions like humour or pathos and then not equally.

Thanks for the book.

Anonymous said...

коттедж
восстановление зрения
зеленый лазер
электрошокер

home for sale costa rica said...

hi people
wow i didn't notice it...

i think this spot is so interesting!

Steve said...

Hello .. firstly I would like to send greetings to all readers. After this, I recognize the content so interesting about this article. For me personally I liked all the information. I would like to know of cases like this more often. In my personal experience I might mention a book called Generic Viagra in this book that I mentioned have very interesting topics, and also you have much to do with the main theme of this article.

Juan Blanco said...

Uzzell may actually have written a very famous "best-seller" ; in fact, he is mentioned repeatedly in official AA documents as an "editor" of the final draft of the so-called "Big Book."

AA receipts also record payments to him; he is not known to have ever been a member of the Fellowship, however. By hearsay, in the 1970's Uzzell's son claimed (his father bragged) he'd actually ghost-written 'Alcoholics Anonymous' (1939). This authorship remains a mystery, unbeknownst to the faithful.

Forensic literary analysis of 'Narrative Technique' and 'Alcoholics Anonymous' (and perhaps the three articles purportedly 'written by' by Dr. Wm. D. Silkworth in 'The Medical Record' 1937-9) might prove the same authorship.

Related Sidenote:
Is it known if Uzzell or his wife was a member of the Holmes Brothers' Church of Divine / Religious Science, by any chance?

Tuckerjackk said...

Norton.com/Setup is best antivirus available in the market. If you want to protect your system online or locally from any unforeseen events Norton is is a must have software in your PC or Mac. Activate your Norton.com/Setup to protect yourself ad your data from your system from malware and antivirus. Browse internet without any hesitation norton will take care of all malicious antiviruses floating all over internet.

For any concern and help just visit website for Office.com/Setup help and key activation of setup You can do it by yourself if you know how to install office.com/Setup on your PC or Mac or you can call third party companies as well who can do it on your behalf.

McAfee.com/Activate Since the world is developing each day with new computerized advances, digital dangers, malware, information, and harming diseases have additionally turned out to be increasingly more progressed with every day. These digital contaminations harm a gadget or documents in different ways.McAfee.com/Activate

Carl Smith said...

Get Step-by-Step guide for Norton.com/setup – Activate, Download & complete installation from norton.com/setup and get the best security setup for any of your preferred devices just by visiting norton.com/setup & mcafee.com/activate. Also try our step by step guide for mcafee.com/activate & office.com/setup.
Related link - mcafee.com/activate

Jerry Smith said...

Hello I am very glad that I find your blog. As I read your blog it is very creative and full of knowledge. By reading your blog, bloggers like me learn many innovative things to write in thier own blog. As i write blog in which we provide information related to Antivirus and also provide services of Antivirus. For any type of query or any update you can use use Norton.com/nu16 or you can contact to our experts.

Jerry Smith said...

All the blog which is provided by you is having valuable and useful content. Many bloggers learn many things from you and enhance their writting skills. As I also write blogs and in that blogs we provide information related to Gmail and also provide services to resolve problems of Gmail. If you have any query or need any help you can contact Gmail Password Reset Number.

Jatin Sethi said...

good morning images quotes
1st wedding anniversary wishes for sister and jiju

Shawn Michael said...

Norton 360 Deluxe – for up to 5 gadgets with Auto Renewal – gives you ground-breaking layers of insurance for your associated gadgets and online protection. norton.com/setup Your own gadgets and data have assurance as you bank, shop and post on the web, both at home and on open Wi-Fi.

nortonhelpline said...

I really happy found this website eventually. Really informative and inoperative, Thanks for the post and effort! Please keep sharing more such blog.

norton.com/setup

Charter.net

www.norton.com/setup

roadrunner email login

McAfee Pro said...


We are working as public beneficiaries as we share analyzed and evaluated solutions with people who are looking for a good solution on McAfee login. If you are also looking for such assistance. You can either go to our website or contact us via call.
visit here: https://mcafeepro.com/

Charlie Brown said...

McAfee total protection is a popular product worldwide to secure your computer and mobile devices from viruses and malware protection. Anyone can download the world’s most trusted antivirus from McAfee's official website and login in a few simple steps. I am also using this software for the last 5 years and getting live support with easy access to Mcafee Account Login to solve all issues myself. Visit to McAfee login page for getting an instant solution.

normapalmer686 said...

As a leading-edge cybersecurity company, McAfee provides advanced security solutions to consumers, small and large businesses, enterprises, and governments. Security technologies from McAfee use a unique, predictive capability that is powered by McAfee Global Threat Intelligence, which enables home users and businesses to stay one step ahead of the next wave of fileless attacks, viruses, malware, and other online threats.For more details visit our website! https://mcafeepro.com/

Mcafee Livesafe Login said...

A computer user always requires something new against spyware, viruses, web protection and email protection. They want all the things in a single packages. Therefore, McAfee Livesafe Login is a full stop for their approaches to this kind of software.You can also get lifetime support to get instant solution. So go and build the trust of users and the believe in real time protection.

Ronan Smith said...

If you get a problem or error, get live support with easy access to McAfee antivirus login to solve all issues.Visit our official website for more details:

https://mcafeepro.com/

Xperria said...

Customer care directory : xperria.com has contact numbers of millions of customer care services which functions across the world. xperria.com is basically a toll-free phone number directory that aims to connect you with the customer care service you are looking for. This not only helps you in getting instant assistance and solution but also saves your precious time.visit here https://xperria.com

Getsupport Pro said...

Getsupportpro is a kind of digital directory, Provides the all type of local and global verified business information, toll-free numbers, and customer services in one step.

Jessy Jason said...

We are a team of highly experienced and well trained, those who provide a solution related to windstream email such as windstream email login, windstream net email login, windstream login and much more. For more info contact our support team to get instant assistance.

Getsupport Pro said...

Are you facing problems in bigpond emails login access.follow our article to setup bigpond emails.

Getsupport Pro said...

Email communication is an essential part of life these days. And emailing is much beyond Gmail and Microsoft Outlook. If your purpose is not just personal and you are looking for the right email hosting platform for your business then Bigpond emails login is the one-stop solution to all your problems.

tohulu said...



I think I have never seen such blogs ever before that has complete things with all details which I want. So kindly update this ever for us.
www.prime.com/mytv
www.primevideos.com/mytv
www.hulu.com/activate
www.primevideos.com/mytv

mcafee.com/activate said...

Emotions are attached to every moment of our life whether it would be in the present, past, or future.

Accountant and Business Taxes || Uniqally said...

Uniqally is the One-Stop-Shop technology platform. Startups, small business owners, and Individuals can engage our full finance team of CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Bookkeepers, Accountants, and Financial Planners for Business formation, Annual Compliance, Bookkeeping, Accounting, Payroll, Individual & Business Taxes, and Tax Planning

shalin parker said...

Amazon Prime is a first class Television Based App feature giving a great deal of on-request and live films and TV shows, particularly with no ads. Amazon Prime gives clients moment admittance to a few sorts of current shows from all the large communicating networks in the U.S. The enrollment gives supporters boundless motion pictures, current just as past mainstream TV shows. Amazon Prime is a comprehensive amusement channel on Amazon Prime Tv.

www.primevideo.com/mytv
www.primevideo/mytv
www.primevideo.com/mytv register code


office.com/setup said...

EMOTION basically It is a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. Emotions can be of many types it can be a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) or love or hatred it can be anything which we strongly feel for anything or anyone.
office.com/setup

Martin Warker said...

Utilizing the provided controller, press the HOME or MENU button.
Choose Video, Application, My Apps or Apps, contingent upon your model.
Choose the Prime Video application.
Choose Sign In and Start Watching and note the enlistment code that shows up on the system.
Utilizing the web, go to the Amazon™ sign-in page

amazon.com/mytv
www.amazon.com/mytv enter code sign in
www.amazon.com/mytv
www.primevideo.com/mytv
amazon prime login
www.primevideo.com/mytv register code

office.com/setup said...

some people write their emotions on the books. and share their emotions with the world.
office.com/setup

Nancy Angel said...

Activate com amazon mytv activate by giving the activation link primevideo.com/mytv in your tv and enjoy amazon popular shows such as movies & web series.Visit given link primevideo.com/mytv..

Login Assist said...

Hey I am a certified technical professional for mediacom email with over five years of experience. If you have any issue regarding your mediacom email login& mediacom login then can help in all sort of problem and get instant solution from mediacom email page Experts in a small time period.

Assignment Help said...

We have team of experienced assignment help professionals. We can provide the best services of good quality of work, we are charging ostensible costs. With a plan to carry help to each student, we give you moderate Assignment Help. As we have our in-house specialists, it spares us a ton of cash and consequently, it helps us to keep the costs as low as could be expected under the circumstances. As we have online services, a student from any piece of the world can associate with us. So if you are a student in USA, you can get assignment help USA with no burden. Through our online entry and topping off a basic structure expressing your prerequisites, the student will be given an assignment master USA.

baroncorrz said...

If you have purchased a new Epson printer then you might come across some technical issues like Epson printer troubleshooting. In the beginning, you might not be able to configure the printer. There are other things too that might cause a hurdle in the functioning. However, there is nothing to worry about as we are here to assist you to face the troubles.
If you are unable to print in black or color, not able to connect it to the system or having some difficulty with the drivers; all you need to do is reach out to us and we will address the issue in no time.

James Wick said...

Thank you for this wonderful information looking forward for more. I really appreciate your efforts to write such amazing piece of content for us. Are you looking for Online Assignment Help at reasonable prices.

printersupportnumber said...

Nice Post....
How do I install HP Solution Center?
You can easily install the HP Solution Center by visiting the official website of HP Support or by going through the HP printer install wizard for Windows. It will scan your system for devices, software and drivers.

jimmy andrew said...

We are one of the third-party trusted Tech-Support service providers working continuously day tonight at an independent US-based 123.hp.com/setup Company. We are aiming for the problem-solving domain and would love to look forward to helping hand. We are extremely talented and extra-ordinary as well in a way to serve quality solutions for any printer problems to needy customers. With our simple tricks and techniques, users are able to solve any major or minor printing problems. We are having hands of experience in technical field and hence this is the reason why we are always ready to tackle your problematic hurdles. With our experience and skills, problems are easily be eradicated from the root in just the blink of an eye.

Assignment Help Australia said...

There are so many places in the world that direct PESTLE analysis on their business to gain strategies and methodologies for the future. It is a basic tool of strategizing and market planning that should be performed to understand market trends and the risk incorporated. PESTLE analysis provides you an in-depth outlook of the whole condition your business might be involved in. Almost every organization attempts to direct this analysis but when it comes to the pestle analysis example, I must tell you that PepsiCo, a beverage industry performed PESTLE analysis in its business. So, if you need a professional who has great knowledge of PESTLE analysis, you can get in touch with the best researchers here.

Assignment Help Australia said...

Choose to take Assignment Help Online services when you can't show your effective writing skills in your papers at any time in the Australia. It is the best way to access experts' assistance for composing effective and productive assignment without writing a single word.

alinabeth said...

Hi my name is Alina Beth.. I have 4 year experience in seo. If you are searching for seo services for increasing growth of your business then contact us. We provide the best seo services for growing your business and up your website ranking on google.

Assignment Help Pro said...

Advanced education students regularly need Dissertation Helps. It is one of the most overwhelming assignments at school and can represent the deciding moment a degree, which makes the dissertation help critical. It requires time, broad research, and orderly scientific capacity.

Viksmith said...

Get your Microsoft 365 Apps, Download/install or reinstall Office 2019.Enter Enter 25 digit office product key at office.com/setup or Microsoft365.com/setup.

www.office.com/setup | enter office setup product key | office setup | www.norton.com/setup

Install Epson Printer Driver Without CD said...

Great post I must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.

Gloria Jenkins said...

The experts at Epson Printer Setup are expert and are equipped with hands-on skills to address the particular issues at the initial fundamental call. They have a lot of experience. Customers who require assistance with Epson's aftereffects can dial Epson Setup Phone Number to complete the specific setup. The number is reliably unique at all stages, with promised courses of action for problems and consumer readiness for complex shields.
Please Visit our site: Epson Printer Setup Utility