"Once you decide that you're going to have the death of Spock, then how does that affect the other people? Why is it there? I got a lot of stick from a lot of people from the very beginning about the idea of killing Spock. Somebody said, 'You can't kill him.' And I said, 'Sure you can; the only question is whether you do it well.'"
—Nicholas Meyer, Director of Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan
The overriding goal of all storytelling is to get a reaction from the audience -- a laugh, a tear, a desire to change, or maybe a desire to kill the storyteller.
There is nothing more saddening than a story that gets an apathetic reaction. A story should influence and affect us. The storyteller wants to see their audience pay attention, hang on their words, and applaud with a standing ovation when it is all done.
Why do you think Superman has lasted so long as a character? It is Escapism; you dream of doing what Superman is doing, flying around with a cape rustling behind you.
Ancient myths also entranced the world. These stories have entire religions based upon them. Even today there are storytellers who have created their own devoted worshipers.
As far back as Ancient Greece, people have wondered, Why are we drawn to Tragedy? Why would people willingly watch something they know is going to make them feel sad, angry, or scared?
Because art isn't about making you feel good. It's about making you feel. Aristotle suggested, "A Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself ... with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions."
Catharsis is a concept that relieving your emotions in one format can influence other components of your psyche. It is a hard experience to describe; it isn't quite like joy or happiness, neither is there an emotion called "epic." The best way to describe your favorite moments is satisfaction. Here, we'll call it emotional torque.
Think a little about Fridge Logic and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. They work and exist solely because we are caught up in the story. We should be so caught up in the moment of what is happening that we don't think about the illogical, the unhistorical or the faulty science.
Right beside this is going the distance required by the story. The story and characters have to do the needed actions to establish themselves and their use. The Butt Monkey has to get beaten up, the Villain has to do something villainous, etc. If there is a war going on and no one gets hurt, no blood gets spilled, and there isn't even a smudge of dirt on them, then it is rendered ineffective and gives the wrong impression. It's like a Jerkass that doesn't do one mean thing.
These tropes are Tropers trying to catalogue their emotional reactions:
- Catharsis Factor
- Crowning Moment of Awesome
- Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
- Nightmare Fuel
- Tear Jerker
These tropes are when the emotional reaction overrules more common sensibilities:
When the use of Emotional Torque fails, the following things tend to happen:
- Romantic Plot Tumor emerges from a romance.
- The Woobie plunges into Wangst.