Some things are too good to stay dead.
I’m told that relapse is part of the recovery process. But who cares about recovery? You’re here to get your second fix. And I’m going to give it to you.
Today, we resurrect the “Hooked on a Feeling” miniseries, with the first of three new entries that will definitively, conclusively, and completely round out all the possible emotions that can be evoked through writing.
Unless I discover more.
You Call This a “Feeling”?
In the original run of “Hooked on a Feeling”, we covered seven topics: Inspiration, Fear, Hate, Love, Mirth, Hope and Despair, and Anger.
And since then I have asked myself if there are any more feelings that could possibly be evoked through writing and were worthy of exploration.
The answer is yes. But you have to go a little further afield in how you define the word “feeling”. It may not surprise you to realize that there exist more feelings than there are words for feelings. Language simply hasn’t developed enough words to describe every emotion (unless that language is German).
As such, the three feelings we will be exploring in this sequel…
…are not such things as are summed up in a single-word name.
Today’s feeling, for example, is the sense of adventure.
Oh, the Things You’ll Discover
The sense of adventure, as an emotion, has an interesting quirk: you can chart its decline.
Because back in cavemonkey days, adventure was everywhere. Cavemonkey Bob did not know what was on the other side of the mountains he saw in the distance, but he couldn’t help but wonder what was out there. Nor did Cavemonkey Barbara know what lay across the great sea. And Cavemonkey Dan was never sure if Cavemonkey Ted had actually been out of town when his wife, Cavemonkey Marie, was murdered, or if he’d just taken his cave-car across state lines and discreetly walked back to the cave with a knife and some cave-kerosine.
The point being that you cannot have the sense of adventure unless there is an element of the unknown. And these days, almost everything is known. We have high-definition photographs of PLUTO, for Hades’ sake.
It’s arguable that the unknown will always exist somewhere, and that we’ll never run out of it. But somewhere is not everywhere, and a sufficient scarcity is little different than complete extinction. Unless your name is James Cameron and you can sink a few million dollars into building a submarine, your chances of exploring an unexplored region of this planet are slim to none.
Crisis = Opportunity
But this shortage in the real world puts you, as a creator of fictional environments, in an enviable position.
Because now your public needs something from you that they cannot get from their own humdrum lives. Fiction has practically cornered the market on sense of adventure. So you’d better leverage that to its fullest, and most profitable, extent.
So let’s start a brand new bulleted list, much like the one we did for the original run of Hooked on a Feeling, to put in plain language the benefits that come from evoking emotions.
- Sense of adventure allows you to monopolize a need within the reader, causing them to turn to you as a trusted source of feeling.
With that out of the way, let’s explore the mechanics of evoking this emotion in the reader.
Calling Forth the Sense of Adventure
This one is actually really easy to implement. It might even be the easiest of all emotions to put into your writing. But that is no excuse for neglecting to explore it as far as we can. There is still nuance to explore here.
Evoking sense of adventure is as easy as taking your characters to somewhere they have never been before (and preferably somewhere no one has ever been before, or where no one has been in a very long time).
All this requires is some transplantation. Your innocent farmboy gets shipped off to the big city. Your magical girl crosses the threshold into the fairy realm. Your intrepid astronauts land on an unexplored planet. Et cetera ad nauseum.
Any fish out of water story results in sense of adventure (provided it’s written well). And if you can send readers on an adventure, they will love you forever.
But there’s a way to make this arrangement even sweeter.
Make it a Two-pronged Attack
There is a beautiful philosophical conundrum at the heart of all quality adventures. Namely, the idea that you cannot go to an exciting new place except by abandoning the place you already know and love.
Some adventure stories ignore this balance, and it is always to their detriment. The best adventures—the ones that go one to become legends—always incorporate the melancholy of leaving home into the excitement of discovering a new country.
Sometimes, the adventure starts when home is destroyed, and the purpose of the quest is to find a new one. Other times, the characters are banished from their home, and are plagued not only with homesickness but feelings of betrayal or guilt.
In yet other circumstances, the characters leave home in search of an opportunity. They want to obtain something needed or highly wanted, but as they journey farther and farther from what they once knew, they begin to understand the value of what they used to have.
If, when constructing a sense of adventure for the reader, you include both the tantalizing promise of the place they’re headed towards and the fearful uncertainty that comes from leaving behind everything they know, you will have created adventure in its purest form and unleashed its full power.
Remember to attack the reader from both sides. He’ll go down quick.
The Achilles Heel
All the emotions covered by Hooked on a Feeling require cooperation from the story’s cast of characters. If the characters are uninteresting, any emotion you try to evoke will be shallow and fragile, fading quickly without leaving a mark.
But sense of adventure is even more vulnerable in this regard than other emotions. The writing has to be spot on. And the person who is going on the adventure has to have a place in the reader’s heart. Otherwise, you end up with Taran from The Black Cauldron.
No, not the well-developed Taran from the Chronicles of Prydain books. I’m talking about the whiny, stupid, unbearable Taran from the Disney animated movie.
Providing the reader with a hero worthy of the adventure is where all your work goes when evoking this emotion. And not all writers are up to the task.
But once you get past that hurdle, the rest is basic.
Bringing it All Together
Sense of adventure is easy to produce yet creates an inordinate amount of value. It shouldn’t be overlooked in any list of feelings to evoke through writing.
Remember, adventure fiction has perennial broad appeal, and has resulted in some of society’s most treasured works. You owe it to yourself to attempt it. The payoff could be explosive.
It does require you to be a competent writer (which should be your objective, regardless), but is simple enough to construct that there is literally a formula for it.
And if you succeed, then you’re on the right track to a healthy career as a writer.
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