For Crying Out Loud

by Robert Gregory Browne

I’m going to admit something here that few men are willing to cop to.  At least publicly.

I cry sometimes.

Yes, I know.  You look at that handsome, macho photo of me on the left of your screen — the one that says, he’s all man (come on, keep looking, you’ll find it), and you’ll have a hard time believing that that particular hunk of granite ever cried a day in his life. 

But it’s true.  I cry sometimes.

In fact, not only do I cry — I outright blubber. 

If you happened to be anywhere near me in the theater as I watched The Joy Luck Club or Awakenings or Sophie’s Choice, you undoubtedly had to dig through your (or your wife’s) handbag and pull out an umbrella.  I’m talking deep, wracking sobs.  The kind you try so hard to keep in because you’re embarrassing the hell out of yourself.  But you can’t.  Because the movie is just so damn sad.

A woman writer friend once said to me, "Rob, what I’ve noticed about your books is that they’re chock full of emotion.  A lot of thrillers written by men are more about events than feelings."

I think it was a compliment.  At least, I certainly hope it was.  And her words stuck with me because, to my mind, the best books, the best stories, the best movies, the best songs — are all about feelings.  Love.  Fear.  Sadness.  Joy.  And the more we know about how a character is feeling, the more we can identify with that character.  The more we become invested in his or her story.

There’s no better way to get to know the people around us than to find out what makes them laugh or cry or gets them angry or sends them dancing in the streets or forces them to scream in terror.  These moments usually hit without warning — an unrehearsed reaction triggered by the unexpected — and when we experience them, we are revealing our naked, unvarnished selves to the world.

The ability — or inability — to turn on the water works at the appropriate (or inappropriate) time, tells us a lot about our friends and family.  And the same goes for the characters we create. 

And because emotion is so universally understood, crossing all cultural and religious boundaries, utilizing it in our stories is a good way to draw readers in.  To make them care about and believe in our creations.

So when he’s caught in a firefight, I’m less concerned about what type of gun my hero is shooting than I am about what he’s feeling when he shoots it.  About the adrenaline pumping through him, about his concern for the woman or child or friend that he’s protecting or trying to save.  And if he’s faced with a devastating loss, I confess that I feel that loss as much as he does — and will often find myself crying at the keyboard as I write the scene.

Yes, it’s true.  And I’m sure I’m not the only writer in this crazy crowd who experiences this.

So you readers and writers out there, tell me what makes you cry.  What song, what movie, what book brings on tears so strong you find yourself sobbing.  We all have at least one.

I have several.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

—————-
HOUSE CLEANING:

A couple of weeks back I played a video created by Tess and me for Thrillefest Arizona.  A couple of you had guesses to the solution of the mystery and one of you actually got it right.  Here’s the entire video now, from start to finish, with the solution intact.

The winner, who will know who he is, can email me at rob at robertgregorybrowne.com, or simply click on my name above, hit "email me" on my website and fill in the blanks.

Here it is:

  

13 thoughts on “For Crying Out Loud

  1. Wilfred Bereswill

    Of all things, the end of the movie “Cool Runnings.” Yeah, the Jamaican Bobsled Team. There’s something about the scene where they’re carrying the bobsled across the finish line and Junior Bevil looks over to see his father open his coat to show him his Go Jam tee shirt.

    Oh, I guess the winner is me. Gosh, my first book hits the shelves and I win a contest all in the same week! I’m doing my happy dance.

    Reply
  2. Wilfred Bereswill

    Cool Runnings. Yep, the movie about the Jamaican Bobsled Team. There’s something about that final scene where they’re carrying the bobsled across the finish line and Junior Bevil glances over to see his father pull back his coat to showw off his Go Jam tee shirt. Get’s me every time.

    So I guess the winner is me. Geez, this is my week. My first book finally hits the shelves and now I win a contest! I’m off to Vegas Baby!

    Reply
  3. Wilfred Bereswill

    Sorry for the double post, well, now triple post. After I received the error message on the first time, I shut down my browser, reopened Murderati and my original STILL wasn’t there. So, I re-posted.

    Yeah, now it shows up. How’s that for a mystery?

    Reply
  4. Jake Nantz

    Most any underdog movie (The voice of Harry Doyle [the Uke] at the end of Major League, the real-life countdown at the end of Miracle, Dennis Quaid taking the field in The Rookie, etc). Stuff like that gets me teary.

    I’ll tell you the one that made me sob because it made me think about my wife was “Return to Me”, but not the part you’d think. The happy ending crap didn’t get it. It was the dog. At the beginning when he couldn’t get the dog to do anything, but it listened to his wife and waited patiently, staring at the door for her to get home (even after he’d already arrived). Then, when she died in a car accident and he came home from the hospital, but the dog just kept staring at the door, and he tried to tell/explain to the dog that she was never coming home again. I have no idea why, but that just struck me as so sad I lost it. My wife had no idea what the hell was wrong with me, because I hate crying, but there I was blubbering away over a tv dog.

    Reply
  5. Dana King

    I didn’t cry the first time I saw SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but I wept almost from the beginning the second time, because I knew what had happened. There are a few others that choke me up every time, but none come to mind off the top of my head.

    My second wife taunted me about crying at the end at MY DOG SKIP. Other domestic arrangements have since been made.

    Reply
  6. Rob Gregory Browne

    Jake, I completely get what you’re talking about with Return to Me, although I only saw part of the movie. But your description of the scene even brought tears to my eyes.

    Maybe that’s because I can relate on a real life level. When my father died, his dog didn’t quite get what had happened to him, why he wasn’t around. The dog, Rorie, wound up running away — I think probably looking for my dad — and when a family found him, my mother let them adopt him.

    So hearing about that scene in the movie immediately brought tears. And that’s the level at which we need to connect with our readers. Obviously, for some it will be stronger than for others.

    Reply
  7. Rob Gregory Browne

    Louise… πŸ™‚

    Pari, the story of the internment camps is close to my heart. I even wrote a film treatment about one of them back in my Nicholl days, which helped me win the award.

    I know there are a lot of apologists for what we did to our own citizens during WWII, but I don’t think there’s any excuse for taking away land and money from Americans and pinning them up, simply because they “look” like the enemy. (Of course, the real motivation was exactly that: getting their land and money. Anti-Japanese-American sentiment was very strong in California long before the war began.)

    Fear and paranoia can do strange things to people, individually and collectively.

    Thanks for the link.

    Reply
  8. JT Ellison

    Rob, do you eat quiche too? Your wife might have to start hiring you out…

    I have one of those weird uncontrollable mechanisms that when I see tears, I automatically tear up. It’s so bizarre — I can be totally disengaged in a story, but if someone starts crying, cue my own waterworks.

    That said, I am a huge softie when it comes to crying in the movies. Hell, I cry during the National Anthem. It moves me every time. Every single time.

    Reply

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