So, yesterday, I read through this thread, and I had no clue what third-level emotion was.

BethS then posted a link to an article which I've read yesterday. Then again today. Twice.

Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
Basically, third-level emotion is what the reader feels, not what the characters feel. I think Donald Maass invented the term, and he talks about it in his book The Emotional Craft of Fiction. But he also discusses it at Writer Unboxed.
And I'm still not sure what third-level emotion is. Or, well, I think I kind of know what it is now, but I'm still a bit clueless as to how and especially when I'm supposed to make use of it.

In my opinion, I'm pretty good at using this third-level emotion to begin with. For example, in my current WIP there's a very intense and sudden break-up in which my POV character is left alone afterwards. (Basically, POV guy does some magic in a very mindless moment and fiancé sees it. She doesn't turn him in because she loves him but she's scared and wants some space so she can think and sort her thoughts, yada-yada-yada.) Obviously, POV guy feels all kinds of things. He cries because he's sad, he thinks he's stupid because he's angry with himself, and then comes the third-level emotion: he's desperate. I have a a few paragraphs in which he cries, tells himself he's stupid, but most of all, asks himself how he managed to so utterly screw this up because of one little mistake that could've been prevented. That scene is perfect to have him wallow in his feelings for a bit, because (1) he's alone and (2) who would not cry and feel desperate after such a thing. It would come off as unnatural to me if, at this point, I didn't show the reader how absolutely awful this break-up is for the character. Not to mention that I'm writing first-person POV and of course after such an incident, one would think (and cry) about this for quite a while.

So far I'm doing this right, right?

But then there's for example this other scene with the other POV guy. There different intense feelings during this scene and I'm talking first-level emotion here, not the different layers of one emotion. In one ongoing dialogue with a friend, POV guy learns that the friend's sister is in love with him, he realises that he himself might have a crush on the friend, and for the first time in his life, he tells someone about his abusive father. That brings forth a lot of different emotion for POV guy and since this is an ongoing dialogue, wouldn't it (1) destroy the flow if I interrupted the dialogue for larger monologues, and (2) overwhelm the reader because there's about three different third-level emotion monologues in such close succession? Am I even supposed to convey such intense emotion at this point because it's actually the dialogue that's in focus here? Do I need third-level emotion all the time or is it okay if my readers sometimes don't feel anything and just see the characters feeling things?

What do you guys think?