Pesky Emotions. Storytelling and Heart’s Cockles.

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Okay, I admit it. I’m penning this instead of diving back into storytelling and game design. I’m a bad writer, I know. But? I write this post and away I go. In a way, I need to get this thought process down into a digestible form that provides some amount of solace, comfort, and I suppose, in a bizarre sort of a way — complacency.

Emotions have been on my mind. I finished editing a non-fiction book earlier this month and I felt like I had grown another head, cut it off, and then seared it with a hot poker so it wouldn’t grow back. After the book, then, I experience this broad range of emotions that run from ecstatic to relief to. . .sadness. Yep, I get teary-eyed because the book is out of my system and it’s in the wild.

But, obviously, the process doesn’t end there.

I talked a bit about this with one of my other (more creative than I, if you can believe that) friends, and she said that it sounded almost like I was going through a mini-depression. Okay, if that were true, that frightens me like you wouldn’t believe — but, was she right? Was it possible I was wallowing in post-creation sadness?

I’m not sure. What I think is true, though, is that creatives have to tend to their psyche and well-being, and take great care to ensure we are doing what’s best for ourselves in order to produce efficient and quality work. In this context, I mean “quality” within the boundaries of what we feel is good enough, pending where we’re at in the process. And by well-being? I also mean holistically. Diet, exercise, friends, family, relationships, creatively. . . All of it.

Writing requires a certain amount of emotional connectivity to characters and story; the more formulaic the tale is, the easier it is to see the “seams,” and the less emotionally-responsive I get. Stories can be wholly and technically correct in every way — but they can lack emotional connectivity. While not everyone will agree with what I just said, I feel tales that offer the reader the chance to get emotionally-involved with the characters are the ones that resonate the best. Sometimes, there’s other factors involved with that emotional vibration that have nothing to do with the story. Is the book popular? Do you love the author and know what to expect? Usually though, I do think it’s how we consume that story as part of the relationship between writer-and-reader. (Key word: relationship. I’m not writing for myself, you know!)

But what happens when the writer pens sad scenes or violent snippets or characters that are “off.” Do we become our characters? No, I don’t. I may try to understand them through my writing so they’re more believable, but that doesn’t mean I could ever blow up a building or harm someone myself. It’s very easy for me to move from real world to fiction/games and back again, save for a touch of emotion. I do, after all, write characters I can’t stand and then attack them vigorously. And as I’ve said many, many, many times before, I write in the dark because I want to highlight characters that are either overcoming that evil or that not everything can be tied up nice and neat with a little bow. I love stories about heroes. Real, unlikely, reluctant, brave, nervous, etc.

Sometimes, though, it’s the research part or the emotional let-down that sends me into a strange tizzy. And then I get a touch of the “I’m not really sure I want to write this, but I feel compelled to, and I’m afraid of it.” One story I’m writing is. . . It’s everything I hate about the current climate and treatment of women. That’s a “theme,” however. That’s just a small piece of the layers and layers for that one. It’s fun to write, a blast to structure, and there are ways I’m getting my writer-nerd on here. Still, experiencing that kind of emotion doesn’t just “happen” in a bubble.

Knowing what my response is to a work means that I can either run from those potentially-negative emotions or dive in with full abandon. (Guess which one I’ll have to do? Hrmmm?) But, it also means I had to find ways of dealing with those emotions outside of the writing to prevent a darker mood in real lifeTM. How do I do that? With the silly, of course! Why do you think I decompress with crazy-fun illustrations, comics, bright colors, extraordinarily silly accessories, and games like Star Wars Legos or LittleBigPlanet? They’re brainless (after a fashion), a lot of fun, and they whisk me away from the darkness.

Lessons I learned: avoid reading dramatic books where characters die when writing dramatic books where characters might die. Oh, and. . .there’s nothing wrong with being silly, reading something silly, or just having fun with a silly game/comic/book/song, etc.

Well, I guess I lied. I guess there is one way I’m like most characters (e.g. humans). If I’m sinking into a character’s dark mood, I need to recognize that’s what’s happening and put something wholly enjoyable and fun into my post-writing routine. After all, one cannot experience light without darkness — a fact that’s both reassuring and terrifying all at the same time.

And a-way I go.

    Mood: Can I cackle? Is that allowed? Or. . .not.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I see buzzing people.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I keep walking, but never seem to get anywhere.
    In My Ears: Strange Tales podcast
    Game Last Played: Star Wars Legos
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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