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Writing Schadenfreude (1 Viewer)

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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude

Sounds like an awful thing right? Well, it’s in the Emotions Dictionary and I have been researching it. It’s not scientifically proven, but articles I read suggest that most people feel this emotion at some point in their lives, and some people experience it often. I have a friend who, I think, needs to feel this frequently, because sometimes I sense her using me as the bait...lol! Just based on the questions she asks. They are questions where I suspect she knows that the answer will make me feel bad. But surprisingly, she is still a dear friend and sometimes I oblige her because I know it makes her feel good. I realized after many years, it has nothing to do with me...it has all to do with her insecurity. And it’s all perfectly normal and part of life.

So why not write about it? I’ve lightly touched on this emotion in my novel, where one very minor character, an employee gloats when another falters. However, lately, I have been toying with the idea of writing some schadenfreude for my protagonist. I’m always trying to make her relatable, not too perfect. But it makes me nervous. It’s a kind of unspoken emotion because although it’s common, it’s not very noble. In fact, some people believe the reason there is no English word for it is that we don’t like to admit it exists. I’m concerned that her having feelings of schadenfreude may make her too unlikeable.


What are your thoughts on writing schadenfreude?

Do you have any great examples to share? (Your words or others')

 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I used to display this one: Katagelasticism, a psychological condition in which a person excessively enjoys laughing at others. Me and my older brother had a fear of vaccines when 8-10 years old. I would as a kid laugh since I thought the reward was I would seem to be a cool person as a result. Every time he would have a vaccine shot, the thought they were going to kill us became real in my child-like mind. I laughed and still remember it to this day. Confession: I didn't like to take the vaccines either for allergies.

I have heard the term used before. One person I knew argued it's a German word that is used a lot by writers. He argued its main use is employed in fiction and in movies because we like to feel people suffer by seeing bad things happen to characters in movies and literature.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
This is by no means a "great" example, but it's acceptable: "We snickered into our fists or at the ground," is a excerpt from one of my WiPs. It is a response to a teenage boy crashing his bike (and not being seriously injured) after acting foolishly in an attempt to impress them.

People of Germanic culture really do seem more willing to express sardonic amusement openly. "We" in the passage above refers to a group of Mennonite sisters whose ancestors settled in North America. (Mennonites generally speak both English and a crude mash-up of English and German known as "P.A. Dutch," a language I am studying and have been exposed to.)

I am more inundated with their culture than most people should be. They're insular, so they're basically Germans living in bubble communities. And oh will they express schadenfrendu if you deserve it.

Sorry if this is an aside.

Someone who never laughs sardonically at fools might not be authentic, especially if they are from a culture where it's more common, such as the one I described.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I'm unclear whether to capitalise the word because it is of German roots, and German nouns, even the abstract ones, must be capitalised. Although the word has been adopted into English, is the adoption too recent to throw off the German yoke (wiki entry)?.

I have written very briefly about my own experience of Schadenfreude, but only in a piece of micropoetry - after the German football team experienced a shock defeat at the hands of South Korea in a World Cup match. The reference to "pincer movement" is a bit naughty as that was a tactic used by German Panzer tanks in WW2.
 

Book Cook

Senior Member
It's sad that the English language (so rich and gravid with words) does not have an alternative to this word.

On another note, is there a word for feeling profoundly embarrassed for someone else when they make a faux pas, especially when you don't know the person?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I used to display this one: Katagelasticism, a psychological condition in which a person excessively enjoys laughing at others. Me and my older brother had a fear of vaccines when 8-10 years old. I would as a kid laugh since I thought the reward was I would seem to be a cool person as a result. Every time he would have a vaccine shot, the thought they were going to kill us became real in my child-like mind. I laughed and still remember it to this day. Confession: I didn't like to take the vaccines either for allergies.

I have heard the term used before. One person I knew argued it's a German word that is used a lot by writers. He argued its main use is employed in fiction and in movies because we like to feel people suffer by seeing bad things happen to characters in movies and literature.

Great word! I've never heard it used before. It reminds me of a boss I used to have...and as the definition describes, he did have an issue with relationships...pretty sure he is still miserably alone...

From what I understand these types of feelings are categorized into three different emotions. There is the sort of tribalism of laughing at an opposing team when it loses and then as described, TV and movies often capitalize on people getting satisfaction from seeing the bad guys get hurt. Those are the two politically correct usages of the terms. But I'm not thinking of incorporating either of those sentiments. I'm considering the third type, which is where generally people who are hurting themselves or insecure about something feel pleasure when they see someone else struggle. The old 'misery likes company' emotion. It's much less politically correct and I'm not sure I've seen it written in a way that one can still maintain empathy for the character.

Thoughts?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
This is by no means a "great" example, but it's acceptable: "We snickered into our fists or at the ground," is a excerpt from one of my WiPs. It is a response to a teenage boy crashing his bike (and not being seriously injured) after acting foolishly in an attempt to impress them.

People of Germanic culture really do seem more willing to express sardonic amusement openly. "We" in the passage above refers to a group of Mennonite sisters whose ancestors settled in North America. (Mennonites generally speak both English and a crude mash-up of English and German known as "P.A. Dutch," a language I am studying and have been exposed to.)

I am more inundated with their culture than most people should be. They're insular, so they're basically Germans living in bubble communities. And oh will they express schadenfrendu if you deserve it.

Sorry if this is an aside.

Someone who never laughs sardonically at fools might not be authentic, especially if they are from a culture where it's more common, such as the one I described.

Interesting! But will they express schadenfreude if you don't deserve it? Or do they keep that one hidden because transparency would not be considered Christian?
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
It's sad that the English language (so rich and gravid with words) does not have an alternative to this word.

On another note, is there a word for feeling profoundly embarrassed for someone else when they make a faux pas, especially when you don't know the person?

For all its words, English is lacking in some areas. Even a basic word such as love has a problem. We have one word for multiple concepts, but I believe one of the old biblical languages had five words for different types and nuances of love. Perhaps language is destined to struggle, because feelings have been around for a lot longer than words, so words haven't yet caught up. And isn't it the case that feelings sometimes only surface once we are able to give voice to them?

As for the embarrassment-on-someone-else's behalf word, may I present Gesichtrotempathie (face red empathy).
Or maybe a new word - othercringe.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm unclear whether to capitalise the word because it is of German roots, and German nouns, even the abstract ones, must be capitalised. Although the word has been adopted into English, is the adoption too recent to throw off the German yoke (wiki entry)?.

I have written very briefly about my own experience of Schadenfreude, but only in a piece of micropoetry - after the German football team experienced a shock defeat at the hands of South Korea in a World Cup match. The reference to "pincer movement" is a bit naughty as that was a tactic used by German Panzer tanks in WW2.

Yes, you express in your poetry (nice poem btw) and sports example the politically correct usages. Revenge and tribalism. I'm not seeing many people respond to this post with the ungracious form of it. This is becoming my theory that we don't feel it's an acceptable trait, so we just don't mention it.

Maybe it needs its own new English word. There are many other languages that recognize this emotion with a word, for example:

škodoradost - Slovak

škodolibost” - Czech.

vahingonilo - Finnish

Skadeglädje - Swedish

Taba - Turkish

Shemateh - Arabic

Although I think some of these refer specifically to laughing at enemies.

Epikhairekakia is an Ancient Greek word meaning the same thing. Aristotle thinks this feeling is bad under any circumstance. If we agree with Aristotle, then one would have to use it sparingly with the protagonist.

 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm still messing about with irony. Shardenfred is too long a word for me. (Yes, I deliberately misspelled).

Irony in my mind is a more sophisticated but milder version of the emotion itself. And yeah, it can feel good to see irony when the expected is too much of a reward for bad behaviour. Like someone buys a car to outdo his neighbour, and a tree lands on top of it the next morning. Although I suppose insurance would ruin the irony in that example.

 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It's sad that the English language (so rich and gravid with words) does not have an alternative to this word.

On another note, is there a word for feeling profoundly embarrassed for someone else when they make a faux pas, especially when you don't know the person?

Totally agree!

I think too often people laugh inside when someone else makes a faux pas because it's like a vindication of our own blunders. But you're right, sometimes we do feel bad for others when they misspeak. Empathy is the only word that comes to mind but is too general.

We really do need some more English words to describe these complex emotions surrounding the feelings we get when those around us falter.

But you see what you did here? You presented a kinder version or even the antithesis of schadenfreude. I’m really getting the feeling we don’t want to talk about this.
 
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EternalGreen

Senior Member
Interesting! But will they express schadenfreude if you don't deserve it? Or do they keep that one hidden because transparency would not be considered Christian?

It really depends. Some are nice; some are mean, just like you'd expect.

I think they tend to hide it less than their outsider counterparts. If they aren't expressing schadenfreude, they are probably less likely to be feeling it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It really depends. Some are nice; some are mean, just like you'd expect.

I think they tend to hide it less than their outsider counterparts. If they aren't expressing schadenfreude, they are probably less likely to be feeling it.

I wouldn't 'expect' them to be mean at all. Other than what I have seen depicted in movies, I know little about the culture.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
The banana skin proves we've all got this inside of us. As does Charlie Chaplin, Lorrel and Hardy, The Roadrunner etc.

As a writer, there's infinitely more material in accepting this simple fact.
 

PSFoster

Senior Member
It's sad that the English language (so rich and gravid with words) does not have an alternative to this word.

On another note, is there a word for feeling profoundly embarrassed for someone else when they make a faux pas, especially when you don't know the person?

It's called empathy.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
What are your thoughts on writing schadenfreude?

Do you have any great examples to share? (Your words or others')
Certain types of comedy wouldn't work if humans couldn't experience schadenfreude.

The main thing that might be schadenfreude in my own life might be if I were being tailgated by an aggressive driver who speeds past me just in front of a speed trap and gets ticketed by police. I wouldn't exactly admire myself for it but there would be some level of satisfaction and probably enjoyment in that person's misfortune.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Certain types of comedy wouldn't work if humans couldn't experience schadenfreude.

Can you be more specific? Perhaps an example?

The main thing that might be schadenfreude in my own life might be if I were being tailgated by an aggressive driver who speeds past me just in front of a speed trap and gets ticketed by police. I wouldn't exactly admire myself for it but there would be some level of satisfaction and probably enjoyment in that person's misfortune.

See now, I would have no problem feeling good about the speeder getting a ticket. But I don't really see this as schadenfreude. I would see it as my tax dollars at work. Punishment fosters good behavior. Hopefully they would slow down and avoid an accident in the future.

But what I'm hearing so far on this thread is that schadenfreude is only acceptable when it is justified.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I consider conflict what we are discussing in this thread.

For conflict, I read the best definition today: conflict is a decision between two good choices and two bad choices.
Conflict is a fear and or decision, and it can be both or just one.
For example: Types of Conflict Person vs. Self: As is probably apparent based on what we've covered so far, this is the only one that is
an internal conflict. All the others are external. The "struggle" is between the character and him/herself
and exists in his/her mind/heart. The "force" is either whatever he/she is afraid of or the confusion of
considering the options between which he/she must decide.
By the way, it's much more difficult to make a decision between two good things or two bad things than
it is to make a decision between a good thing and a bad thing. The former makes for a bigger, often more
significant conflict, which often makes for a more interesting narrative.
Examples:
• Elvis wants to go to the prom, but six girls want to go with him. (This is a decision, which could be
among many good things.)

Remember to use the 5 wh questions and you will never run out of ideas.
 
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