Tag Archives: tragedies

From Hopeless Romantic to Sceptical Cynic to Something Inbetween

When I was young all I wrote was romance. I was obsessed with the idea of love, with the beautiful emotions captured upon the page in a story that had a central romantic plot. My friends would tease me, commenting on how my works always (and I do mean always) ended up with happily ever afters and marriages and everything else in typical Disney story fashion.

And then the years passed. And something inside of me seemed to die.

Hopeless? I’d always been quite hopeful. In many ways it was as though the hope died out. But I suppose four years of college without a single boyfriend made me start to realize…made me start to wonder if I’d been lied to and if there was more out there than a wedding ring on the finger to signify ultimate happiness. And besides, out of the works I’d read in class, it was rare to find one that actually ended with the characters getting everything they wanted. And the few that ended somewhat happily usually were picked apart by my professors anyways.

As a result my works started to become more depressing. My fifth novel I finished ended in utter despair. Dead characters and the protagonist locked away in a mental institution. Part of me felt proud for actually having made some progress. Actually having said goodbye to the naive little girl who’d always written love stories.

And then over the summer I just stopped trying. I’d worked hard on my “senior thesis” a somewhat depressing novel that I had shown to several professors and fellow students for criticism. After having worked on that for so long I needed something new.

So I began working on fluffy romance. Things that made me smile and laugh and feel good again. I’d spent so long during senior year feeling depression build up over the inevitable end of the school year, that it felt good to relax a little. Write things that weren’t serious that I’d never send to a publisher. But there was more than that.

I had a friend who I was sending a few chapters to when I’d finish them. And she made a point of saying something to me one day that struck me.

She told me that my last two updates were both during horrible life moments. Apparently one came in right after her mother’s passing, and the next while waiting in the hospital. She told me “I actually laughed with happiness when my email came that you had updated, because I needed something lighthearted right in that moment.”

I cannot even express how much that meant to me. How deeply moved I was to think of this friend reading my cheesy ridiculous love story in the hospital and smiling.

But that’s the beauty of happy things. Sure, a depressing story might have some great messages in it, or be written beautifully. But happy stories have the power to make people’s lives better.

With this in mind I decided I might rethink the depressing college novel if I ever get started on it again. Because I know now that while there is value to a story that has tragedy and sorrow…there is also beauty in a story that helps other people remember to smile. I don’t think writers should forget that too quickly.

 

What do you prefer to read or write? Do you think there are advantages and disadvantages to comedies vs tragedies?

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When Stories Don’t End “Happily Ever After”

“NOOOO!!!!” I cried, tilting my head back and letting out a howl of horror.

“What?” my roommates asked, looking over to make sure I was alright.

I let out another soft groan as I sank downwards in my chair, the book in my hands coming up to cover my face.

“Emily, what happened?”

“Whhhhhhhyyyyy!” I moaned as I continued to sit slumped in my seat.

One roommate glanced at what I was holding over my face. “Um…problem with the book you’re reading?” she guessed logically, figuring, as an English major, that might be the cause of my distress.

“Yeeeeesssss!” I chose to whine. “Everyone dies! Five pages from the end everyone who is important diiiiieeeeesss!” I knew I was sounding pathetic, going on about a book and its tragic ending. Nonetheless I was distressed. I had become attached to characters, formed bonds over the three hundred pages so far. Why did things have to end like that?

Tonight I went through a similar dilemma. I was watching a French movie, simply enjoying  a film. And as the film began wrapping up I got this weird intuitive feeling that things were simply too happy and a movie like this one couldn’t end so peacefully. As the woman walked out into the street I immediately knew she was going to be hit by a car. Sure enough a van comes by and smacks her onto the pavement. Her friend sadly looks down at her body before covering her face with his coat.

I’ll admit it. I like happy endings. A majority of the time I would rather watch a Disney movie than some tragic artistic film. Now admittedly sad endings have merit. Some of those stories are the classics, the canon…what we consider the best! But my poor little heart simply can’t take it.

It’s a matter of preference. One of my roommates continually makes me watch movies she calls “amazing” that end up making me feel depressed and hopeless. I have another friend who is averse to any kind of tragedy. I fall somewhere in between the two. While I admittedly do not pursue sad movies and books on my own, I can enjoy them every so often. I just like it best when there’s a bit of hope in the end too.

Sorrow is a part of the human experience and humans have always been drawn to trying to capture and portray pain. We question it. We wonder why it exists. We try to figure out how to escape it if we can. We sympathize with other’s experiences. And we simply sit and sink into those feelings in a small bit of helplessness, and yet holding onto the glimmer of hope that we are not alone.

I think in many ways that is why we are so drawn to sorrow. One of my friend’s favorite movies is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Though certainly not a tragedy, it is a sad story. The first time I saw it I cried throughout and felt depressed for a good week. The second time I admittedly felt a little better about it afterwards and held back any tears. And perhaps if I watch it again my experience will continue to improve. The story of a struggling high school student who is lonely and confused and finds refuge in books and writing speaks to my own experience. The first time I watched all I felt was the raw pain, the reminders of what it was like to be bullied, isolated. The second time I watched I felt more of a sense of peace. Others understand. Others get it. I am not alone.

There are benefits to both types of stories. One reaches into the joy we feel, touches those places inside us that yearn and hope. The other brushes across wounds, reminds of hard times, and lets us remember the human experiences of grief and pain. Which do you prefer? Perhaps like me it is a combination. At times it is hard to read the sad. But sometimes, it speaks to me in the right way and in spite of my obvious annoyance at the story not ending quite the way I want, I can appreciate having a better sense of the struggles all humans have. And I can enjoy a story, even if it doesn’t have the traditional Disney happy ending.

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