Author Topic: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.  (Read 1614 times)

Offline MadDove

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unsentimental style. What exactly is the difference? Is it simply the difference between telling vs. showing?

I've been absent from this site for a while, ironically in part because I've begun work on a first novel. My hope is to create something that is emotionally evocative but avoids mawkishness or transparent manipulation (because isn't all fiction writing manipulative on a certain level?). Could anyone provide me with examples of the two styles?

Further, is it universally agreed that any show of sentimentalism is a sign of weak writing? Or does it depend upon the subject matter?

If any other writers find this subject worth expanding on, I'm all eyes. Thanks!  :)

Jo Bannister

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2016, 05:42:40 AM »
I suppose it's a matter of degree.  As you say, all fiction needs to engage the emotions - perhaps sentimentality creeps in when situations are devised primarily to heighten those emotions rather than to advance the story?

 I suspect this is a very poor answer: like you, I'd be interested to see what other members think.

JewelAS53

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2016, 06:18:46 AM »
I am responding here to receive notifications when others post.

I too would like to know what defines sentimental as a style.

Offline MadDove

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2016, 08:25:30 AM »
The more I think about it, the more I think perhaps sentimentalizing has to do less with style and more with treatment of the subject matter and what aspect you choose to concentrate on. Maybe it's the persistent grafting of nostalgia onto events or themes. But a great story greatly told should oughta be both intellectually and emotionally engaging so clinically ignoring the feelings that stem from a situation and the characters that inhabit it is not a desirable way to write. IMO. As you suggest, Jo, it could all be a matter of degree.

Here's a for instance: say you're describing a scene in which a child holds a dying puppy. By its very nature, very little embellishment is required to wring emotion from this (unless of course you have no sympathy for children and animals!). But what if the story is an elderly man walking through the neighborhood he grew up in and we learn he was just released from prison after serving time for grisly murder. Dwelling on his memories of his childhood home -- is that sentimental? Or is dwelling on his regrets sentimental? A shade of a difference in treatment, with the second sounding more sentimental because it spells out emotion rather than allowing it to be subtext. Which brings us right back to showing vs. telling. (*sigh*)

The whole point of my question, though, comes from my impression that sentimentality is a second-rate form of writing. Am I wrong that this is an accepted opinion? No one would look askance at crafting a story that emotionally engages but at what point does it descend into soppiness? I'm looking for a clearly marked line in the sand, people!  ;D


Offline heidi52

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2016, 09:09:53 AM »
That's a fine line and subjective as all get out. You will never get a definitive answer.

What I might find sentimental crapola, you might find endearing.

I would imagine it would be easy to edit down to remove the overly sentimental, but harder to add warmth into a colder piece. I would write the story first with abandon, realy pour it on but with an eye towards probably paring/tamping it down in the editing.

I could be wrong, though. Wouldn't be the first time.

Loved your tile by the way.  ;D

Offline MadDove

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2016, 10:05:27 AM »
Your take is a breath of fresh air, heidi. I'm an overthinker and your simple observation is sensible and just what I needed. Thanks! Everyone has their own line in the sand when it comes to differentiating tripe from truffle. Just go full bore on the story and then start paring. I know I've felt this instinctively in my gut but then forgot to think it (if you know what I mean  :P)

I would still be interested in hearing other's thoughts on the subject. Does anyone have any writers or works they feel particularly exemplifies sentimental or unsentimental writing? It's often easiest to learn through example.

Oh, and thanks for the tile comp.  :)

« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 10:10:41 AM by MadDove »

Offline Mrs N

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2016, 10:16:36 AM »
I always think if you write with a truth it comes across better than when you try to impress. Having emotions rung from me make me feel v. different to when I just watch an author craft what he sees.

I read a book (can't remember title) and the man got down level to a child to ask if she was okay, and I re-read that on several occasions, and cried every time.

Whereas something that is out to manipulate my emotion just makes me mad, and I seldom like the characters.

Don't even know if I've touched on an answer!! ;D

Offline MadDove

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Re: A little help requested over here in Aisle Clueless: Sentimental vs.
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2016, 12:10:46 PM »
 ;D, Mrs N, I think we may have established my question has only an "untouchable" answer! And yes, when we're aware we're being manipulated, nobody likes it, whether in real life or fiction.

If the title of the piece you refer to ever resurfaces in your memory, please post again. I'd love to look up the scene you mention.

Thanks for your reply!