A few weeks ago, I wrote a scene where the hero stands in a living room populated by pictures of a teenager he was forced to shoot a year before. He is talking to the boy's mother and the guilt and remorse he feels is overwhelming. He's responsible for the grief he sees in her eyes, for the droop of her shoulders. It's a painful scene.
Just before that came a scene where a house goes up in flames. The hero has to rescue his wife and infant son and isn't sure he can.
Then there's a scene where the hero comes across a room filled with pornographic pictures taken of youngsters and he is sickened by what he sees.
What these three scenes have in common is emotional impact. I remember being very bothered by the first one because it also occurred to me that the villain behind all this misery, who has touched all these life's, caused all this disruption and death and mayhem, is still out there causing trouble. I was really struck by the ripple effect of evil and it permeated my consciousness as I wrote.
As for the second scene, the fire, I wrote that scene very fast. When I went back to reread it, my typing was terrible. Half words and spaces and all sorts of mistakes I generally don't make. It was like that because I was so caught up in the terror and the need for haste that it moved into my hands and I raced, just like he raced, fingers flying, words falling to the side like dead soldiers.
The third scene is a nightmare for the hero. It's been rewritten so many times because it's pivotal. The first time through, it was very graphic. Since then it's been modified to get me where I need to go, but once again, it was my emotional response that shaped the scene and it stands out in my mind very clearly.
What I don't know, what I wonder about, is if that intensity I felt writing these scenes actually exists on paper so that the reader feels it, too. How can I know, because in rereading it a dozen or more times, the horror is diffused and domesticated to a certain extent, so that now I don't know if the scenes carry a punch or if the punch is in my memory bank from when I originally created the scene.
I've had writers tell me how touched they were when writing something and yet when I read what they wrote, I wasn't as touched. I thought maybe I was a bad reader. Now I wonder if the fantasy is so much more real for the writer. Afterall, only a portion of what a writer "sees" makes it into a scene, the rest of the picture is left in limbo.
Do you have tricks for handling this? Words of wisdom? Have you ever experienced what I'm talking about?