How readers react to emotional scenes.
I have been pondering how readers react to emotional scenes.
Take the following example, a real-life situation.
A woman is visibly upset because her cat is missing. Each person who witnesses the scene has different feelings towards the woman. Some may adore cats or have a compassionate personality. They sympathise fully. Others may dislike cats or lack compassion. They think the woman is hysterical and over-emotional.
If this scene were in a book, it too would engender different responses in readers. Authors can try to guide a reader to feeling a particular emotion, but how the reader actually feels will depend upon their life experiences and character traits.
So, to avoid alienating readers, would it not be preferably for the author to show the disappearing cat but not show the woman’s reaction? The reader can still reach his or her own conclusion; they just do it quietly in their own head.
Obviously, it’s a matter of personal preference. Personally, I think characters with real emotions are a positive; it generates a bond between the reader and the character, whether you agree with what they are feeling or not. As a result, since you care about the character, it keeps you interested in the book. I want to be taken to places I wouldn’t otherwise visit. Isn’t that one of the pleasures of reading?