I just finished a really good book, which I’ll talk about in more detail for Fiction Friday this week. It was one of those books packed with emotions – there’s this one scene where a character dies that had me bawling for an hour, and even now, thinking back on it, my heart aches and I’m sad all over again. Other scenes were so intense I wanted to put the book down…but I had to keep picking it up again, had to see how it all turned out.
By the time I finished, I was completely exhausted. I felt like I’d run a marathon. It didn’t help that there’s this ridiculously cliffhanger ending. So frustrating! So now I’m faced with a dilemma…go on to the sequel and go through all that emotional turmoil, or never find out how it all wraps up?
Well, I went and got the sequel because, stressful or no, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Of course I need to see how it all ends. But it did make me think about emotional depth in writing.
Back in college, I had a professor who said that as long as a book or story makes its reader feel some strong emotion, even if it’s a negative emotion, then it’s a good story. He believed the object of writing was to make the reader feel something, to stir up some emotion, the stronger the better. And sometimes I agree with him. But other times, I think the books I enjoy the most are the ones that are entertaining.
Oh, sure, I think all books should have some level of emotional depth. Lets face it, if you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care about the story, or at least that’s been my experience. But does a story have to pack an emotional punch to be considered a great story? I’m not so sure anymore. I think if all books had me feeling as much as this one I just finished, I wouldn’t be able to read nearly as many. It would be too exhausting. On the other hand, the ones that make me feel so strongly are definitely the ones that stick out most in my memory.
So I turn to all of you. What do you think? Is it more important for a book to be entertaining? Or does it have to have a lot of emotional depth to be considered a great book? And what book have you read recently that’s packed the biggest emotional punch?
On a side note, thanks to Stephanie for inspiring this post. 🙂 And for more on eliciting emotion from readers check out Brian’s post here.