edittorrent had a fabulous post about emotion in writing. Alicia pointed out that we often think want our readers to feel what our character is feeling. Authors will pour energy into accurately and creatively describing a character's internal state. We think nailing that moment in our character's life will guarantee that a reader will join the character in that emotion. We also think that having our readers feel what our characters do is the major goal.
However, Alicia wrote that, as writers, we should want readers to feel more that our characters do. A reader can empathize with our characters, but is also capable of feeling all sorts of emotions layered above and below what our character is experiencing.
I'm going to pull this quote from her blog because she says it wonderfully (and to convince you to visit the blog and read the entire post):
"There will be times when you want the reader to feel something-- humiliation, dread, pity-- that the character is not feeling in the scene. So it's not just about making the reader feel what the character is feeling. (And, in fact, some characters are not going to feel anything-- but the reader still can.) Sometimes you want the reader to know (if not feel) what the character is feeling, but feel something else or in addition. That's when you have to go beyond mere replication of the character's feelings. Something else has to be added to inspire the reader to feel the additional emotion. The totality of the scene, all the elements that go into making the scene, can inspire emotion in the reader."
Good stuff, don't you think? I love reading a post that opens up another facet of writing. It's yet another issue to keep in mind as I wade through all the revision I'm doing.