Catharsis for the Reader (Step 3)

I’m sorry for the long gap since the last post. I’ve been ill but am now feeling much better. So without further ado…

Catharsis is the expulsion, repulsion, or purification of toxins and impurities. Emotional catharsis can allow the release and possible transformation of many different negative feelings. These may be toxic emotions built up from real life or emotions instilled by the writer.

In Step 1, we looked at various seeds to plant in order to produce the reader emotions of anxiety, fear, and sorrow. The seeds you have planted included character traits, goals and dreams, premonitions and prophecies.

In Step 2, we grew these seeds until they tangled up inside the reader and turned toxic. You grew these seeds by nurturing reader investment in the characters as situations grew progressively worse.

Now we will harvest the negative feelings in dramatic and definitive ways.

Harvest Wisely

Now that you’ve grown reader anxiety, fear, and sorrow for one or more characters, it is time to harvest these feelings. This harvest might be the darkest moment of your book — in which case you can completely cull thee negative reader emotions — or it might be a smaller dark moment of your book — in which case you probably want to leave behind some negative reader emotions.

In either case, the dark moment for the character is also a dark moment for the reader. It is a point in the book when reader anxiety, fear, and sorrow are higher than at any point before. That said, to sustain reader interest and tension, be sure that the only completely cathartic experience is the final one. If you fully meet the reader’s need before the end of a book, she might not read to that end!

How you reap your reader’s emotions depends heavily on your theme and individual story. The climax (or mini-climax) must be true to both. For your individual story, the culminating event should be inevitable (preferably in a surprising way). At the same time, there are several ways that your climaxes can be suggested by your theme. For instance, if your theme is value-based then you can tie negative reader emotions into situations that show the negative side of your theme.

Let your theme and individual story guide you as you decide how to harvest the reader emotions that you have sown and grown.

Let Your Voice Be Heard: Reader reactions can be heightened through the occasional small cathartic moments (as well as a final climactic one). What one such memorable moment in a book that you have read or show that you have seen?

One thought on “Catharsis for the Reader (Step 3)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s