When writing, authors make many rhetorical choices to best satisfy their intended audience’s needs. As social creatures, humans can be sucked into a story through the invocation of their emotions whether that is cheerful, sad, hopeful, etc. Pathos is a very useful tool to add another dimension to a story by appealing to the audience’s emotions. Two very different stories, a horror story about possession and a teenage fairytale about unexpected love, both targeting a similar teenage audience can keep the readers engaged by making them feel connected to the story and the characters.
Word choice can really strengthen the pathos in a story. In the silent and lonely house inhabited by the three characters in “The Tape”, the authors write about the experiences of the youngest of the family, Becca, after watching a scary movie: “I attempt to find refuge under my blankets, covering every inch of my vulnerable human body from the demon that is peering over me.” (showersenation. et al, Storium.com) The detail of the sentence puts the readers in the young girl’s place. The audience sees a little girl, who is scared of monsters and is yearning for protection, and the readers wish to go into the story and save her from her misery. This keeps the reader invested in her safety and her outcome.
When all goes wild at home shortly after the death of the children’s father, the authors write, “As we are pretending as if we are completely into the movie, mom continuously talks to us saying, ‘I see your dad sitting next to you.’” (P1xie_Stranger. et al, Storium.com) For readers who have experienced death, the idea of the father in this already frightening and stressful time is triggering. With just this one word, the audience realizes that the children must feel so alone. Their father has passed, the power is out, they have just finished a horrifying film, and now the only person they have left is acting weird, speaking of seeing a dead man in the family room. The audience feels helpless but needs to read on to find out more.
Audience awareness also plays a huge role in the execution of pathos in a piece of writing. In “Unexpected Love”, a modern rendition of the classic fairytale of Cinderella, the authors set the mood: “This is an important day for seniors, a tradition that marks the end of their student life and beginning of an exciting new chapter in society. To their young hearts, this is also the day when lovers deepen their bond and create lifelong memories, while others find love.” (TheArtist14. et al, Storium.com) The writing appeals to teenage emotions; the reader feels the butterflies in their stomachs that are associated with prom night, a first dance, or having a young love. Teenagers, young or old, either feel the nostalgia from memories of their own prom night or get enthusiastic about the idea of their own future prom.
As a high school senior who is constantly the target of his brothers’ criticisms, Dexter has to think a lot before making a decision as crucial as going to prom or talking to a girl: “’Hey there, are you the square root of -1? Because you can’t be real.’*shakes head in embarassment* : ‘No that’s not right…. What are you doing man?’” (FinesseGod3416. et al, Storium,com) Self-consciousness is a very common struggle for teenagers, and as such, the audience resonates to Dexter’s nervousness to approach a girl. This scene makes the audience pity Dexter but also want the best for him. The reader is committed to the idea of Dexter getting a girl at prom because he deserves it.
As the audience has established a favorite character to root for in the story, pathos also allows the reader to develop hatred for other characters. Dexter’s overconfident brother says, “Hey Marissa, you little hottie. Forget about my two other brothers. Clearly, I’m the one meant for you. Look at my hard muscles and all of my brawn. How can you not want me as your date tonight?” (dann59. et al, Storium.com) Through his words, the reader gets a sense of who this character is: one who does not respect women. Readers in their teens all know people like this, and these kinds of people make others angry. This is the guy who bullies the sweet and genuine Dexter, and the reader hopes for Dexter to win in the end.
After getting to know Dexter, the audience develops an attachment to the young, self-conscious high school senior. As Dexter is basically forced to leave his once in a lifetime prom with a one-of-a-kind girl because of the treat of his jock brothers angrily approaching, Dexter nervously says, “There’s no time to explain. I’m so sorry for ruining everything. You wouldn’t even want to be with a nerd anyway.” (dann59. et al, Storium,com) Dexter is only a word on a page, but he comes to life through the words of the authors. The audience can picture the poor boy beating himself up about going for a girl as beautiful as Marissa when he is as “nerdy” as he believes he is.
As the authors strategically manipulated the readers’ emotions, they also created a whole new meaning and importance to the stories they wrote. Through getting readers attached emotionally, readers feel as if they are actually living in the story rather than just reading it, which makes them more eager to continue reading.
4EverGreen, P1xie_Stranger, sophieahn, showersensation. “The Tape”. Storium. Scene 1. https://storium.com/game/group-4–2/act-1/scene-1.
4EverGreen, P1xie_Stranger, sophieahn, showersensation. “The Tape”. Storium. Scene 2. https://storium.com/game/group-4–2/act-1/scene-2.
Dann59, FinesseGod3416, I_AM_ME, TheArtist14. “Unexpected Love”. Storium. Scene 1. https://storium.com/game/group-3–2/act-1/scene-1.
Dann59, FinesseGod3416, I_AM_ME, TheArtist14. “Unexpected Love”. Storium. Scene 2. https://storium.com/game/group-3–2/act-1/scene-2.