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This article originally appeared in the AKRWA blogspot in March 2012




“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

-Charles Dickens, Great Expectations





I always say it’s healthy to cry, tears take the pressure off the brain.


There are three reasons we cry. Basal tears keep your eyes wet and protected and are always present unless there is a disharmony. Reflex tears happen when our eyes become irritated by foreign particles or when we smell onions or tear gas. Then there are psychic tears, these are very special tears brought about by emotions or physical pain.


And why are psychic tears so special? In order to cry psychic tears the brain must release the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Once it hits the receptors the lacrimal glands start producing tears.  Psychic tears contain hormones that the other tears don’t, one of these hormones is an endorphin, one of natures painkillers.


Pretty magical stuff how our body takes care of itself.


I have cried from sadness, pain, anger, joy, laughing, seeing beautiful art, hearing amazing music, reading books, watching films and of course watching Oprah. There is something purging and cleansing about a good cry although it can be exhausting as well.


You can express and define things about the characters you write in the manner of how they cry. Is it a stoic tear trickling down the cheek into his beard or perhaps the full bore, wracking sob festival whilst curled up in bed? I have written both those character-defining moments in different books.


If you want to see some great examples of crying, check out ‘Casablanca’. I just saw it on the big screen for the first time and Ingrid Bergman cried beautifully, a mercurial tear sliding down her flawless skin. I also think that Ben Stiller cried magnificently at the end of ‘Something about Mary’ as he walks away thinking he’s lost the girl forever. Another beautiful cry was Maria Falconetti in the great silent film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’.  One of my most romantic favorites is at the end of ‘What’s up Doc’. Ryan O’Neal’s character recognizes the voice of the woman he loves, his eyes well up with tears and he smiles with relief.


Make a list of your favorite crying scenes, books or films, what does it tell you about the character?

---C.G. Williams

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