Monday, September 11, 2006

Sentimentality and Emotional Effect

Dear Dead Beat,
Someone recently described a piece of my writing as sentimental. What do you think was meant by this?

Dear Sentimental Enquirer,

Dead Beat has no idea what this person meant. If you haven’t already asked him or her, I would, just to see if they can articulate what was really meant. Many people use language inappropriately which can cause great confusions when critiquing work. Always ask people to explain the terms they use.

Used correctly, sentimentality implies that the writer has tried to achieve some emotional effect without providing any reason why this effect is warranted e.g. if the writer tries to make the reader sad about some situation a character is in in a melodramatic way - “This poor innocent woman’s child was about to die” - then sentimentality will result. The character needs to be built up and the situation revealed in detail that we will understand without being told the great sadness being undergone.

The events and the details reveal the emotion. It is not the writer’s business to tell us how to feel.

So take a look at your work. It is easy to fall into sentimentality. Strike out any melodrama and give the reader solid description instead.

Send Dead Beat any writing queries through the Comment section.

1 comment:

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