Vision: A Resource for Writers

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The Emo Trap

By Darwin Garrison
Copyright 2008 by Darwin Garrison, All Rights Reserved

I first became aware of the term "emo" while browsing the discussions groups at MegaTokyo. Since I'm obviously not in synq with the younger generation anymore, I was only able to figure out the alliteration after doing some Wiki-work.

For those of you who may be as clueless as I recently was, what I learned is that apparently the term devolved from the alternative or punk rock scene on the East Coast at some point to describe groups that affected great emotional distress during their performances.  From the usage I have seen on discussion boards, it appears to me that "emo" has become an "inside" or "l33t" negative-connotation term that implies an over-the-top or obvious attempt to evoke sympathetic sentimentality, whether by an individual or within media (such as in a recent comic at Krakow Studios).

Now, why bring this up?  Because lately I've come under the impression that some folks have begun to brand anything with emotional content as "emo" on reflex, as if having anything but appetite and violence in your media is wrong.  When I see examples of this in comments on various things, I have to scratch my head and wonder when the heart went out of these people.

The fact of the matter is that a work with monolithic emotional content is shallow and unsatisfying to read.  However, the opposite of that is any obvious attempt by the author to invoke an emotional response in readers through the use of cliche or overt exposition.  My suspicion is that the knee-jerk reaction of the apparently "younger" folks who tend to pull the "emo" term out for use happens because they're tired of seeing things that are so obvious in their attempts to manipulate them.

I could sit and worry if my prose is too "emo", but there's no use in that.  Some people may well brand my work "emo" while others won't see it that way at all.  The point is, attempting to write with an eye to a group like the anti-emo radicals I sometimes perceive would be an injustice to the work.  If you wash all the emotions away except emotionless sex and aggression, there's little left but cardboard cutouts more at home in video games than within a real plot line.  Good writers realize and convey a spectrum of emotion within each character, well aware that the human animal is not monochrome in its feelings, but rather a rainbow where intensity varies with mood and situation.

No, the "emo" trap is not for me to worry on except to avoid pandering to those who see emotions as bad.

Darwin A. Garrison lives and writes from the wilds of Indiana, leveraging all the events of his not-so-glamorous life to create fanciful stories of other people in far away places suffering a great many troubles (also known as "adventures"). Darwin has been published in three separate DAW/Tekno anthologies (Under Cover of Darkness, Fate Fantastic, and Something Magic This Way Comes) as well as the Dragon's Tooth Fantasy anthology Illuminated Manuscripts. He is also currently preparing to launch a new SF&F webzine called Darwin's Evolutions (all hail the SPACE MONKEY!)   Find out more about Darwin at and