Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - S is for Shock (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions









This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use to in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature.

shock
shock: a sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience / amazement.

Shock is sudden! Shock is hard. Shock knocks you out of your current frame of mind.

Electric shock, short sharp shock, a shock to the system, all of these are things or sayings that relate to the immediacy of this reaction. There's no anticipation associated with shock, and no time for processing it, it is an uncontrolled and immediate reaction. Therefore a person's reaction to a shock can be a very telling one.

Fainting happened a lot to ladies after a shock in penny dreadfuls, and Mrs Bennet was even prone to it in Pride and Prejudice, although what she considered a shock and what her daughters did were very different things and revealing of her character :). Fainting in shock is used by Victorian gentleladies to great effect: to avoid answering questions in confrontations with those seeking them; to swoon into the arms of their hero. And, given how tight their corsets were laced, it is actually not surprising that some women succumbed to a faint when anything beyond gentle breathing was required.

Men in Victorian penny dreadfuls tend to have more varied reactions to shock. The rogue will undoubtedly reveal himself by running away when confronted with something terrifyingly shocking, whereas the hero, of course, will stand his ground :). In modern literature, women are allowed to do this too!

Another reaction is to freeze. This kind of response can be used to great effect to insert drama into a scene - whether that is the hero/ine faced with an unexpected monster crashing down on them, or a character faced with a mental shock, information revealed that takes them a little time to process. How will they react, what will they do, why are they wasting precious seconds doing nothing? All will make the reader take in a breath and hold it as you force the sudden halt in proceedings! :)

Although the moment of shock is instant, the outcome can be far from it, even delayed for days, weeks, months. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was, in the days of WWI, known as shell shock and the terrible echoes of fighting in the trenches could stay with a young man for years to come. One use of this in drama that I think was both poignant and maddening for one of the protagonists, was in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, namely the episode, Laurels are Poison. George Moody, Mrs Bradley's indomitable chauffeur, meets his brother's old commanding officer, Douglas Prideux, the man who sent his mother the letter to say his brother died quickly and honourably at Passchendaele.  George wants answers about how his brother really died, knowing the letter would have been a glossing over the terror of the trenches. Eventually, though, Douglas, who is a detached and snobbish man, breaks down and admits he does not remember, that he cannot remember the faces of any man who served under him due to shell shock. It is an emotionally charged moment for both men, despite the war being 13 years in the past at the time of the story.

 So, even if the moment of shock is not in your story, the repercussions can be used to great effect as well.

QUESTION: What is the best shock reaction you've read/watched/written?
  
~

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31 comments:

  1. I'm drawing a blank on the best shock I've read/seen. So, I'll say the moment of animation for Frankenstein's monster. "It's alive!" ;)

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  2. Shock's a hard one to pin down for me. The one that sticks in my mind is this a book I read a couple of years ago. The woman had just been told she'd been bitten by a werewolf instead of a dog. She sat there staring at the other person, but not moving or saying anything. The man kept on talking, yet she never reacted.

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    1. That is a classic shock reaction, dumb-struck :)

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  3. One of the classic reactions I see a lot is jaw dropping. Here is the thing: I think it is awesome to see it happen in real life, but it has become such a cliché in writing that it is really hard to do well...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. I suppose it's like everything in real life, it's rarer so much more impressive when it happens ;P

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  4. I've had a few difficult events in my life and there were hours/days of numbness. When things happen, it does seem to take a while for your brain to really register it.

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    1. Some things are just too enormous to take in all at once.

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  5. I can't think of the best but there's been so many times when my jaw has dropped while reading a book. I love those moments! :D

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    1. It is great to be surprised and even shocked by a plot - I'm like you, I enjoy it when it happens and books can do it easier for me than film.

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  6. Hi Sophie - we can go into shock when we hear someone has died unexpectedly ... Kennedy ... serious illness - the brief shock of shock and realisation we need to gather our wits and go help .. or that cold shock feeling when something really serious and personal happens ... lots of choices though .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Oh yeah, I've had that cold chill run from my head to my toes when a bad shock has been delivered - it's a dramatic emotion.

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  7. I think a death or betrayal is always shocking. Also when a person says something outlandish or snarky that can be shocking too!

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    1. Oh yes, especially when whatever they do or say clashes so completely with the situation they are in, it can be a real shock :)

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  8. In zombie books, there may be plenty of shock when a beloved character dies.

    Precious Monsters

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    1. Yes, there's nowhere to hide in post apocalyptic zombie stories :)

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  9. Hi Sophie, it's nice to meet you. I've been following your sister's posts from very early on in the challenge and only just realised you're taking part too!

    Best shock reaction - Pam's face when she saw Bobby in that Dallas shower... Only kidding ;-)

    Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

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    1. LOLOLOL! Oh yeah, the acting was stellar in Dallas! ;P

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  10. I've been shocked at some things I've read in books that I didn't quite expect, but drawing a blank here with the best shock reaction in a book or something I've seen. You did describe the emotion very well though!

    betty

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    1. I do keep putting folks on the spot with my questions - I know how long it took me to find good examples of some of the reactions, so it's not surprising it's difficult to think of one :)

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  11. There's a shock scene in my upcoming novella. The character is throwing in completely over her head and frozen to the ground. At first, it kind annoyed me how useless she was being because I see her as a strong female, but then I realized that she wouldn't know what to do in the situation, so her reaction of shock is pretty justified. Especially the bit with the decapitated head.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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    1. It is a temptation to try and make our characters cope with anything, but everyone has their limits - decapitated head - that could be a limit! ;P

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  12. I can't think of the best shock scene I've ever read. I'm coming up empty. Sorry. But, I did enjoy reading your post and bookmarked it so I can come back and read all of the other emotions for each letter. I am always looking for new and helpful resources to get information that will help me write believable character's actions, emotions and reactions. Glad I stopped by today.

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    1. Thanks for commenting :) I hope you find my musings useful.

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  13. Great explanation. Nothing like catching your character off guard and seeing what they do.

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    1. That kind of thing can be scary or hillarious :)

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  14. I can't help but think of the pivotal midpoint scene in Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, where the young unnamed protagonist loses his speech after the villagers turn on him during the celebration of Corpus Christi. It's a combination of emotions, but shock is certainly one of them. The young boy's shock and horror only increase after he escapes, when he realises his tongue has become like lead in his throat, and he's not just imagining things or temporarily unable to speak.

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    1. That's a good point, that shock can grow after the fact, build upon itself when you have time to realise what has happened.

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Well that would have to be a short story by my author, sometimes I just don't ee it coming.
      http://sytiva.blogspot.com/

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