Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lesson # 2: sentiment vs. sentimentality

My former mentor, Hester Kaplan, taught a wonderful lecture on how writers can get their readers to feel the characters' emotions without being sentimental about it. What's the difference between sentiment and sentimentality? Namely that sentimentality makes you feel something through the use of the narrator's voice not through the characters/events of the story, and sentiment means you feel something legitimately through experiencing the characters/events of the story. Sentiment creates a thought or view that arises out of good descriptions and characters, whereas sentimentality manipulates the reader's emotions through highly charged imagery that ellicits unearned feelings.

How do you avoid sentimentality but ellicit sentiment?
1- Use specific images and situations, not general/abstract ones.
2- Don't rely on adjectives
3- Don't rely on cliches or hackneyed subject matter
4- Don't tell the reader what to feel, let him/her experience feelings along with the character.
5- Use events/images that surprise your reader.

An exercise: Write about falling in love in a way that is not sentimental. I will tackle this in a future post. Best Blogger Tips


TI said...

I'm loving your lessons. Thanks for summing things up for future reference.

Melodye said...

I came by your blog through Erin(Bostonerin on LJ)and am glad that I did. Thanks for this mini-lesson -- it's a timely lesson for me! For sure, I'll be coming back for more. :)


Figen Bico said...

Although this was posted several years ago, it's right on time for me as well, since I'm trying to break the habit of sentimentality ....

Ingeborg said...


lee woo said...

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polisety.family said...

An attitude or opinion, feelings of love, sympathy, kindness, etc. is called sentiments. But a tendency to have or express feelings of love, sadness, etc., especially in a way that seems foolish or excessive : a sentimental quality.

A person of perfection, who has gained mastery over his environment, remains ever composed and unruffled by the vagaries of the changing world. It is not true to say that such individuals are devoid of the feeling or emotions; they certainly have them, they love others, they have sympathy and kindness towards others, but they do not allow their feelings and emotions to over power them. Their hearts were filled with emotion and sympathy for the suffering of fellow human beings, not only human being but all living creatures, but they mentally stay above of all worldly disturbances.