- To Laugh (Comedy, everything else)
Almost every story can benefit from a dose of humor. It’s easier to identify with funny heroes. Funny sidekicks, love interests, and even villains can also increase our enjoyment of a story. On the flip side, laughing at a hero or side kick’s foibles, bad luck, or cluelessness can also bond us to them, since it gives us permission to laugh at our own failings.
- To Gasp (Thriller, Horror, Action)
We gasp when things are shocking or horrific. This can also be referred to the “edge of your seat” quality.
- To Swoon (Romance, everything else)
We want to share a hero’s romantic hopes and fears. We want to share their yearning, to have that yearning thwarted painfully, perversely punished, and finally gratified (or tragically thwarted once and for all, which brings us to our next urge…)
- To Cry (Romance, Tragedy, Drama)
We cry when things are tragic. Things are most tragic when they’re bitterly ironic. When the hero simply fails despite their best efforts, that’s just a bummer, not tragic. When they fail because of their best efforts, or realize they must choose to fail, the tears come.
- To Dread (Thriller, Drama, Tragedy)
The deepening sinking sensation that something awful is going to happen is perversely pleasurable for an audience, all the better if we’re not exactly sure what form the disaster will take.
- To Speculate (Science Fiction, Fantasy)
Sci-fi and fantasy are very different, but most fans of one are also fans of the other, albeit less so. They both offer the thrill of escapism: to imagine a world wildly different from our own and to wonder at possibilities we’ve never considered (which gives us the hope that maybe more things are possible here.)
- To Puzzle (Mystery, everything else)
Almost every story can benefit from adding a big mystery and/or a series of satisfying mini-mysteries to solve along the way. Sometimes we’re solving the mysteries alongside the hero, sometimes they’re only mysteries to the audience.
- To Burn (Historical Fiction, Drama)
Can one “enjoy” a movie like 12 Years a Slave? On some odd level, yes, because it’s pleasurable to burn with righteous indignation at the sight of injustice.
- To Lust (Romance, everything else)
This frequently but not always overlaps with swooning. We like to be turned on. In books, we mostly just lust in sex and seduction scenes, but in movies we can have the visual pleasure of sexiness onscreen in every scene.
- To Cheer (Action, some Horror)
Once we’ve gasped, we want to release that tension by cheering. In horror, this only comes at the end, but in action stories we get lots of chances to cheer throughout. Any genre can have “stand up and cheer” moments.
And now here are two massive charts. Above, you’ll find one for the books we’ve looked at (It’s good that I have enough data to start some crunching!) and below you’ll find one for the movies we’ve looked at:
What do you guys think? Are there any urges I’ve missed? Do you disagree about the urges these stories fulfill?