Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bea Moody

How are you feeling today? Mirthful and merry? Or morose and miserable? I do hope you are experiencing the former of the pair of descriptions. If not, I hope that a Pollyanna will happen along soon to brighten your day.

The four words I have chosen identify moods at opposite ends of the happiness spectrum. In psychology terms they reflect the emotional valence, whether positive or negative, of an event or a situation.

Our choice of words impacts on the way the reader perceives our stories. Recently, Professor Matthew Jockers of the University of Nebraska analysed over 40,000 novels. By focussing purely on the positive or negative words used, the computer programme he devised studied the emotional valence of each story. By so doing he has created an objective method of tracking the emotional journey that the reader will experience as they read.

I failed to appreciate the lesson of Professor Jockers’ research. I received a rejection on Friday of a short story I had submitted to a magazine. The editor pointed out that there was too much negativity, reflected in my usage of words such as “bemoaned” and “rant”. My story dealt with some difficult issues but it had an upbeat and positive ending. Sadly this was overshadowed by my earlier choice of adverse words.

So I shall start my week with happy thoughts and joyful words in the hope that my writing will reflect a more positive emotional valence.

Happy writing, everybody! Have a good day!


  1. There may well be something in it...I know when I've been part of judging competitions, most people are looking for upbeat stories. The thing is though, unless you are writing slapstick, you have to give people problems, and the words are bound to be a little miserable and morose.

    I don't know about the Prof's wisdom. People still like reading about bad stuff happening to others, and as long as they are in a different place at the end of the story, it seems to pass muster.

    Have a good week Bea.

    1. Ah, the 'man in a hole' storyline. Perhaps I should ensure the rope I throw him is entwined with sweet smelling flowers.

  2. Bad luck about the rejection, but it's good you know why it wasn't accepted and can therefore try to send something more to their taste next time.

    1. This is very true, Patsy. You see, such positivity in the face of a negative.