Three Little-Known Reasons Ennui Is Perfect For Setting Up Emotional Satiety In Fiction

Here, deep emotional satiety is the feeling of fulness and completion that a reader obtains from a well-constructed piece of fiction.

Succulently-described boredom, as it afflicts your protagonist, is an excellent launching pad for a fulfilling emotional journey (for your readers). Here’s why:

  1. Many readers exist in a state of unrelieved boredom, which is why they read; if your protagonist is similarly fed up with the sameness of life, the reader (as long as the boredom does not last more that a wee set-up stretch) will identify with the protagonist, and form an emotional bond of camaraderie.
  2. So many exciting and suspension-of-disbelief-requiring events unfold in fiction, that setting up a neutral, bland beginning gives your world a measure of credibility. (As in, hey, remember when things were normal around here?)
  3. Character boredom gives us, as readers, a measuring stick of normalcy; we are thereafter able to understand how relatively strange the protagonist finds subsequent events.

In many cases, establishing the baseline of an emotionally-unfulfilled protagonist allows us to bond with the character, and thereafter vicariously experience emotional stimulation when the character does. (If we feel no initial bond to the protagonist, the chain of events can become exclusionary and off-putting; we see the character having adventures, but we are not experiencing those adventures ourselves, because we have not identified ourselves with the character.)

Lack of Ennui-Saturation in the Opening:

Molly drew her X-51 blaster, and put a charred hole in the forehead of the hideous brown monster.

“Molly, help me!” Frank shouted. A twist of fear in her heart, Molly spun, and saw the advancing horde of green-glowing limbs through the door beyond.

“I’ll save you, Frank!” Molly bellowed, and she twisted a pair of energy-pulsar bulbs from her belt.

Ennui-Saturated Opening:

Molly tapped her fingers on the dusty console; three days, she thought. It had been three days since anything at all had happened on this blasted ship. They said I would have adventures, Molly reflected, stretching her legs out beneath her chair. The tips of her standard issue grav-boots scraped the far edge of her work station. I’ve never even gotten to shoot off my blaster, or push the alarm button, Molly thought sourly. She drew a deep breath, and stared at the screen on her station wall.

Two red lights were blinking in the top right corner of the screen. Molly’s shoulders stiffened, but then she slumped down into her chair. She snatched up her link device.

“Frank, are you making fun of me again?” Molly demanded. She was the only eager recruit on the space station, and most of her colleagues were still hazing her, months after her arrival. “Can’t you pick on one of the new guys?” Molly snapped into the link.

Heavy, startled breath came through the other end. When Frank spoke, his voice trembled uncontrollably.

“M-molly. Molly, get out here, now!”

The link cut off. Molly stared down at the device, and then turned her gaze to the big yellow button. She licked her lips, and felt a thrum of pleasure as she lifted her palm, and smashed down on the alarm button.

When you give us a moment, however brief, to settle into the bones of your protagonist’s boring normalcy, we buckle in for a lovely adventure, and are on track towards deep emotional satiety.

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