Joys That Sting

"This is a certain maxim, that the more we are governed by wisdom, the less we shall be inflamed by passion."
The Religious Tradesman, Richard Steele

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an emotional person. I am rather thin where my skin touches spirit: as a result I feel things rather keenly, often extremely and violently. And, I suppose, that for a writer this is a good thing. In some cases this is not always a good trait, not always giving me a natural bent toward sensibleness, but as a writer it is a useful thing to be: emotional. It is so human of us to feel, to know that we are feeling, even to differentiate between our feelings. Rachel pointed this out, that as writers we have to be acquainted with an enormous spectrum of emotions, and to be proficient in writing them, or else our stories, our characters, fall flat - there is no life in them. As an owner of two cats, having grown up with cats almost my whole life, I know that even animals have range of emotion, if not the self-awareness to know they emote; if I fail to weave emotion into the heart-strings of my characters, they are even less believable than my kitty.

I like writing emotion, myself. Rachel quoted the line "I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions," and I love that, because that is exactly what I feel. Words: the audible, visible manifestations of the language of our souls. I find it a heady business, writing emotion, and feeling all those emotions themselves as I filter my characters out of my finger-tips. And Rachel in her post (do read it!) challenged her readers to write emotion, to not forget that, like any other person, characters exhibit emotion and that a reader will expect to find it. My current novel Plenilune is very emotional, but I thought that, given her challenge, I might pick out emotions and show you what I have done in various and sundry stories to display those feelings. I hope you are much amused, greatly diverted, possibly enlightened, maybe even inspired.


They did not mean to forget her, she told herself with a tell-tale viciousness. She pulled her knees up and gripped the hard thing that hung at her chest, hoping to find comfort in the good horse-magic. But there was a wind blowing wolf-wise, howling-wise, through the open doorway beyond which all was shifting darkness, and there was no warmth to be had even in the good horse-magic.
The Guttersnipe


Oh!” cried Margaret, bursting into heedless, furious tears. “Oh, you worthless, p-pitiless, filthy creature! I despise you! I d-d-despise you! I despise you!” Her raging words fell out into sobbing—furious, terrified sobbing. She crumpled into the bed-sheets and sobbed mingled tears and blood; with every hysterical gasp she smelled her own blood, tasted it, felt the cut agony of her own broken lip.


For a moment purely childish expressions ran across Miss Morgan’s face as she stared at him and his hand, taking in his meaning. He hoped that James was not wrong, and that she did know how to dance after all. But then she seemed to compose herself and, with the perfect demure nod, she placed her hand in his. “I can think of nothing I would enjoy more, Mr. Godshall,” she murmured.
Not Raymond


Like a child in a nightmare, wanting someone to wake him. Paralyzed with fear and pain, Tamsin lay in his bed, covered in sweat, dragging in breath after ragged breath. He still hurt. His limbs were locked, his body did not answer him... Slowly, agonizingly, inch by inch the flesh responded to the will, tingling as if the valves were reopened and he were flushing blood back into the dead extremities. He clawed upward, dragging himself out of the horror of sleep. He sat upright, holding the moonlight in a pool in his lap. He stared at it, trying to sort reality from nightmare; and then an unreasoning fury rose up in him, against the house, against the painted barbarian, against the book and the captain and everything that was not Nim.
my 'Boxen'


But she knew, as one might know a thing in a dream, that there would be no going home to his hall now. The grey, heavy face darkened with smoke and blood seemed to draw away from her; a whole world seemed to come between them, as though already he was in the halls of his fathers, sleeping, sleeping until the angels sounded the trumpets from the blue ramparts of heaven. She clenched her eyes shut and let the tears roll down her face onto his, streaking in the grime.


That was the most difficult part. By nature he was of a quiet disposition, but he could not allow the captain to have the floor for long or else the man would have no time to drink. Entering the room, he glanced from the man’s bulk to his sideboard, and winced. That was good brandy: he hated to waste it.
my 'Boxen' again


Aidan checked, turning his hawk-nosed face over his shoulder, full in the firelight with a little sharing smile on his face, as if he thought the jest were funny too. But Tate was sure everyone in the hall knew that the jest was not funny to Aidan, and she felt the soft ripple of awkwardness run among them, as a little wind will run among the grasses of the downs.
I'm not sure what this story's name is.


But as he passed me, he stopped, and I knew then that he had never forgot I was standing there. His gaze met mine, lifted a little for I’m a big fairy, narrowed against the blowing rain. There was that laughter, flaming white, laughing at me out of his eyes.
The Duke


The fire was going down into a fitful heart of reddish gold, like a ruby caught in a candle. They all took the night in very deeply on their uninhabited rock on the edge of the empire; to Adamant, if felt as though she were lingering in that nowhere-place, that between-time: that place that was like the marshland, like the horizon where earth and sky touched, like the twilights of a day. She was cupped—they were all cupped—in a place that was on the brink of all places, in a time which was no time at all and was the central point upon the face of a clock itself.


Master Lucius' pen stilled a moment. The moment lingered, hanging in the balance, the looks between the Lords of Eryri and Arfon and the young man tangible as the heat of the fire beside him. The hate was throat-catching. Young Epona's nostrils flared and the shadows flickered across her brow as her eyes widened a fraction. The hand on the sword-pommel slowly curled in on itself. Only Ambrosius did not change in his appearance. Master Lucius thought perhaps the stormy grey of his eyes grew faintly white, like the sea, but he could not be sure.
The Guttersnipe


I swear,” he said to anyone who would listen, “that man cannot be got drunk. He’s off already."
more of my 'Boxen'


There is nothing, I thought to myself, so glorious as a high vision of the ocean as the world is descending into twilight. The many facets of amethyst colours, the sound of the wind, the silver, the singing, and the gold all burst upon us as a war-horse going into its last battle, trumpeting scarlet, furious and exultant. I drew in a breath to burst my lungs.
Blue Martlet

I seem proficient in sad or sad-seeming emotions. I'm friendly and bright by nature when you converse with me, but rather the opposite in writing - the emotions in writing can go so deep that, down there (or up there), joys really do sting.

"I love old things. They make me feel sad."
"What's good about sad?"
happy for deep people."

6 ripostes:

  1. Beyond lovely, Jenny. :) Thanks so much for sharing all these bits! Wow. You've written so many stories...are all the ones you mentioned full-length novels, or are some shorter stories or works in progress? And how much do you write per day, do you think? :)

  2. Thank you, Rachel! I'm so glad you enjoyed these, taken out of context and plopped in a blog post though they were.

    Let's see... Of the stories I posted, only Adamantine is complete (and it is still undergoing editing, but whatever). Plenilune, as you know, is what I am currently working on as a companion novel to Adamantine. The Duke is a short story in conjunction with Adamantine: the work of my whimsy, really. Not Raymond and The Guttersnipe share a similar situation: both of them are in the works, if not being worked on now, and both of them are constructed of varying numbers of broken pieces written down, loosely stitched together with my imagination. My 'Boxen,' fondly called so because it is the reconstruction of the stories my husband and I played at as children, is also unfinished: I wrote 43,782 words (where it stands now) after a month of NaNo on the pretence of taking a break from my NaNo novel to write a bit of whimsy. 43,782 words of whimsy, which turned out surprisingly well, giving how my whimsy usually turns out.

    To answer your question more succinctly, there is one full-length finished novel in here and one finished short story, and the rest are poor benighted tales that I haven't completed yet.

    As for how much I write per day, I don't. That is, I don't write every day. I would like to write at least a little each day, but I don't always. However, any given day that I am writing I try to move the plot along at least one thousand words. One thousand is a nice, round, biggish number, and I like to get there if not beyond it before stopping. It doesn't always happen, but at least I have a goal. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finish this reply I intend to haul out my manuscript and get to work on Plenilune and hopefully get some editing done later today.

    (My screen-saver actually says "Jenny, You Need To Edit Adamantine.")

  3. Eeesh, I love this post. I just... I love it. I have a feeling I'm going to read it over and over again until I've memorised it.

    That last bit, that little paragraph about the sad-seeming emotions and the joys that sting: I understand it completely. It's just how I feel. (And you quoted Sally Sparrow! I love that line of hers to death.)

    Your emotions come across so raw and real somehow. The description of them isn't overdone, which is always a great dread of mine, and it is not too subtle either. You've struck a good balance, and I love it.

    That's all.

  4. I see I have moved on from penslaying to pen-zombiefying, as you would have to still be sentient or mobile to memorize this post. The writing dead. That has a strangely appealing ring to it. I may be off my rocker entirely.

    I always look forward to your comments, Megan, because you are So Like Me where emotions go. If I have done it properly, you Get It, and if I haven't...well, you've never told me yet that I haven't, so that's encouraging.

    (Yay for Sally Sparrow!)

  5. I think a writer must feel things keenly, in order that we can infuse words on the page with living, breathing emotion. Characters cannot be flat, unfeeling creatures, we must convey a sense of the inner workings of their souls. And how can we, if we don't feel it? I confess, I've been moved to laughter or tears during writing, as I engage deeply with what my characters experience.

    And on joys that sting, I love this passage from The Return of the King:
    "And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness."

  6. I am not sure there is a better passage out there, Sarah, to sum up the tangled sway of the joy of living and the longing to live and the painful gush of relief than the one you just posted.

    This is a little bit of a side-trail; I was telling Rachel on her own post that I often convey (and feel) emotion with colour. The passage alone that you posted gives me such a painted array of twilight glory: tawny, silver and gold, the blue of quiet, the flame of the West, canary-yellow of words hanging in the azure silence, and slashing all through it the triumphant Tyrian purple of wine. So much colour, and somehow, for some reason, those are the colours of my emotions. So much colour...

    I used to be a little shy when I felt the emotions with my characters. I was never sure if I was supposed to leave such responses to my readers alone, and if I was being egotistical by sharing in those same feelings. Of course I've come to realize quite the opposite. I've cried with my characters while I write them, sometimes I've even cried as a description I wrote stabbed me with colour like a knife; I've turned white with rage over circumstances, or even laughed. I suppose if I can be so moved while I'm in the midst of the grueling task of plotting and writing, there is hope that my readers, concerned only with following the path of my tales, will be moved as well.