Friday, October 14, 2016
Emotion or Character Trait? Calling all writers... by Sheila Claydon
Is ambition an emotion? What about pride, confidence, rivalry, envy, jealousy? Then there is optimism, exhilaration and enthusiasm as well as pessimism and cynicism. Are they emotions too or are some of them merely character traits?
Very recently I became involved in a somewhat challenging debate about this. One point of view was that these are all emotions. This was based on the theory that all emotion is the product of changes in the brain. Neurotransmitters and hormones were mentioned. It was stated that the body's neurochemical systems determine behaviour and that we are the products of our brain chemicals and electrical impulses. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to argue with these apparently proven scientific facts but, as a writer, I had to take issue with the definition of an emotion.
To me love is an emotion, so is sadness. Liking, joy, anger and fear are also emotions. So, I think is surprise. Everything else comes from these, so envy for example is the result of feelings of fear and anger and so is hate but they are not primary emotions.
A lot of people reading this might think 'so what' and mentally list a whole lot of feelings that they consider to be emotions such as guilt, dismay, pity, and I couldn't argue with them. It does make for an interesting discussion though and, as words are so important to a writer, I thought I'd throw the challenge out there. What do you consider to be our pure primary emotions as opposed to the character traits we develop via our upbringing and life experiences? And how important are these emotions to your writing?
I know when I write my own stories I call on a great many emotions. I also build personalities, however, and to do this I have to develop character traits. In Mending Jodie's Heart, Book 1 of my Pathways Trilogy, ambition, anger, fear, sadness, enthusiasm, pessimism, obstinacy and a few others all come before the love that finally blooms, and this continues through Books 2 Finding Bella Blue and Book 3 Saving Katy Gray. Without them, I couldn't write any books at all.