I’ve written about this before, sometime ago, but I’m going to mention the topic again. A writer’s job is to capture life with all of its complexities and distill them into an emotion that can be felt by the reader. Last time I talked about this, I wrote on the oddly specific emotion of guilt with a twinge of pity and embarrassment.
Today I’m looking to capture an equally tough but much more general and grand emotion — that of wonderment. I recently saw Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit at my local theater and spent the entire film giddy with my jaw on the floor.
Good writing can have the same effect but it’s very rare. The real special thing is that it can be achieved in any genre. Fantasy and science fiction try it most often, but a miss when trying to achieve wonderment is extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable for the reader. xkcd jokes that the number of made up words in a particular piece is inversely proportional to the quality of the piece. Tolkien is an exception to the rule. That guy can make anything work. Most people just sound like elementary schoolers playing pretend.
Which, come to think of it, was the last time I felt authentically in wonderment pretty much all the time. It was a little scary. Perhaps that’s the secret to building a good sense of wonderment — a little bit of fear.