Emotional Moments 5of8 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

What follows is the fifth part of a list of what I feel are the common emotional tones, with examples. (For part 1 please click this link.)

(Note: Many examples may represent spoilers if you have not read/seen the story, though I will do my best to refrain from being too specific.)

This section focuses on what I call Neutral Passive emotional moments (emotions that could be positive or negative, but usually lead to inaction):


“Well done.”

The weary contentment of a job well done, this is often the most immediate reward for heroes and audiences, scaling in direct proportion to the difficulty and time involved in completing the task. This is one method of showing/establishing that a task was difficult, and signaling to audiences that they should feel a sense of accomplishment. It also helps audiences develop a scale of what is possible in this particular diegetic (fictional) world.
One Punch Man (2015 anime) is a great example of how weary pride can make an accomplishment feel satisfying. Saitama’s first fight is modest compared to later accomplishments, but the fact that it’s challenging, and the way he pauses afterwards, establishes his accomplishment as worthwhile, in contrast with the cavalier way in which he overcomes much greater challenges during the majority of his conflicts.

Mellow Example

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (by JK Rowling), Harry completes several exams, including a test on the defense against the dark arts (his specialty, and the course taught by one of the primary antagonists of the book) and despite the antagonist’s best efforts, he passes with flying colors. There’s little (if any) uncertainty about the outcome, but the satisfaction he feels at spiting this antagonist in a way that leaves them powerless to retaliate, is most satisfying (for the character and the audience).

Intense example

In Ender’s Game (book by Orson Scott Card) the protagonist of Ender is confronted with numerous “tests,” combat simulations designed to favor Ender’s opponent, with ever increasing difficulty. Over time he feels worn down by the escalating challenges, until one day he faces the last test, a challenge that seems impossible. But when Ender emerges victorious, all the tension releases at once. He’s won, and what’s more, he’s free.


Fear is a very interesting emotion. Sometimes it serves as a warning against danger (which we should heed), sometimes it’s an obstacle preventing us from doing what we need to do (something we should strive to overcome).

But regardless of whether it is good or bad, it almost always causes us to pause, to hesitate.

Granted, there are many times (throughout history and fiction) where people have taken action because they felt fear (usually attacking and destroying or distancing themselves from the source/object of their fear), but I would propone that any action taken in response to fear is not caused by the fear, but by anger at the source/object of fear and a desire to be free of fear.

Mellow Example

In the story of Coraline (both the book and the film), the character of Coraline goes through a narrative journey of fear. In the beginning, her curiosity easily overwhelms any apprehension she feels, but there are key points in the story (particularly whenever Coraline makes reference to returning to her own world) where the “other mother” begins to show her true colors.

Intense example

Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker, probably represents one of my favorite horror stories. It features monsters that (by their appearance alone) hint at the horror of what they will do to someone in their possession. The story implies the true horror rather than blatantly stating it, much like Lovecraft did, leaving audiences to fill in the details. All we (the audience) know is what we can infer from the “fashion sense” of the monsters, the way in which they use self-mutilation as an accent and aesthetic to their appearance, the same way we use makeup.

Next Time…

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


10 thoughts on “Emotional Moments 5of8 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. Phew, I thought something was wrong with your comment box. Turns out I just needed to open a new tab and try again. This series is still a little over my head, I think, but I’m enjoying reading the examples. Thanks!

  2. I’m interested in your example for pride/satisfaction! I always assumed the emotional tone for One Punch Man was boredom because of how overpowered he is, or a kind of Eros-like approach to satisfaction (by which I mean “always striving, never reaching” in a tantalizing way). Love to hear your thoughts!

    • I would agree that boredom is a factor in One Punchman’s struggles, and I think most satisfying experiences include a sense of “striving and struggling to get there,” but I feel like satisfaction is often found we do “reach” the goal, but there’s a sense that it was challenging, and by extension, it’s because of the difficulty that we feel there’s value in doing it. For example, I think many take satisfaction in a good workout or other exercise activity, even though the outcome feels fairly certain.

      Returning to One Punchman, there’s an episode where he dreams of fighting a group of super strong mole people, and for much of the dream sequence (in my opinion) he seems much stronger than his opponents, but at the same time they are close enough to him in strength that his victory takes time. He has to throw a few punches, and while his victory seems likely, there’s a level of effort he has to put forth.

      Perhaps one of the key elements (looking at the season 1 finale) is the idea that maybe a good challenge is “the first thing you try doesn’t completely resolve the issue,” prompting the character to “reevaluate” and “try something else.”

      There may also be an element of “being over too quick.” A videogame that consistently requires the player to “push A” to win will become tedious quickly. A game that requires players to alternate between 2 distinct buttons, depending on circumstances, actually requires the player to think and react.

      There’s actually a board game called Resistance, which I’ve played many times, and I consider myself rather good at it. Unfortunately, after years of playing with the same dozen or so people, I find that I often know exactly what the “correct” move is (for me), and regardless of the outcome of the game, there’s never any debate for me over how to handle the situation, and as a result the game has lost a great deal of satisfaction for me (though adding 1 or 2 new players changes all that).

      I do believe that one of the surest ways to achieve satisfaction is to work towards a sense of growth and improvement, but I think it is possible to achieve satisfaction if the effort involved is above a certain threshold. I think as long as the people involved feel that they have to “try,” and as long as “trying” influences the outcome, there’s room for satisfaction.

      • Great analysis! I’ll definitely keep that in mind as the future episodes/chapters come out for OPM! I think OPM does such a good job because it really contemplates the desire for satisfaction that a powerful hero (like, say, superman) should be feeling. I think also it kind of jives well with the vibes I get from Dragon Ball Z, though in that case they never seem to reach the most powerful state. 😂

      • Interesting that you use the phrase “satsifaction that a powerful hero (like superman) should be feeling.”
        I think part of what makes a superhero work is how often their powers and strengths are ill-suited to the opponents they face. I once read an article that suggested that part of why Lex Luthor works as an opponent for Superman is because it’s not super powers that make Lex Luthor challenging, it’s his financial and political power, and the fact that in many cases he operates within the letter of the law, which is a line Superman will not cross, just as Batman has the “will not kill” line.
        I think part of what’s interesting about the One Punchman series is how much of the narrative is actually about other characters, like Genos and Mumen Rider, who truly struggle. Much of Saitama’s narrative is how others don’t react well to the reality of his strength, and what that says about our real perspective on strength, particularly how “because it is difficult for us” we find it very challenging to accept that others might find it less challenging, and the desire to invalidate their efforts and achievements to compensate.

      • That’s a great point! Lex Luthor does make for a good foil/arch-nemesis for him, but I hadn’t thought about it that way! I suppose satisfaction as a theme is rather circumstantial, which makes sense, since two different people can achieve the same thing and have different levels of satisfaction based off of how they perceive their own effort in the situation. I do think that aligns well with the second part of what you said, “how others don’t react well to the reality of his strength, and what that says about our real perspective on strength.”
        I’m curious how you feel King from OPM fits into this theme, because I think perhaps the perception of others in contrast to our own perception also has an impact on our own satisfaction.

      • Unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to watching season 2, so my knowledge of King is secondhand and fairly sparse. but once I do watch it, I’d be happy to discuss that aspect as well.

      • Nods. I’ve also sometimes grown frustrated with waiting for the anime to progress, and also find it can be challenging to find others who both “have the prior experience” and “want to discuss.”

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