Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Change In Genre & A Question

So, I've been involved in a local Fiction Writer's Group. They have no experience with Children's Books and critiquing Picture Books was definitely not their forte. Since I've been participating in these critique meetings, I have somewhat switched my writing. I had already lost my mojo for writing picture books at the moment. One reason, I think, is because I am still waiting on a critique from an editor I won a few months back but haven't heard from her yet. Not that I'm complaining. She's busy. I know. But, something about having a real live editor review your work kind of gets your nerves all in a bundle.

So, yeah, I'm changing up a bit. I started back writing a few short stories and the Fiction Writer's group has given me some great advice. Even edging me on to expanding a few into a novel. (Which scares me!)

My last short story I wrote and submitted to them, which was last week by the way, ended up causing them much grief. What I thought was a short story, turned out to be a writer's purge. Therapy.

I took my main character, based him off my husband's situation and wrapped up some major fears we both have. See, my husband suffers chronic pain from a few accidents he had in the military. He also gets three to four migraines a week. I am his care giver, the bread winner, the support line. Our lives are very difficult. There is no way to express it in terms anyone can understand. I did my best in that short story. seemed to leave my readers with no hope.

So, I've been ALL books/stories need express that there is ALWAYS hope? I mean, life's not fair. Life does not always balance out. Sometimes, hope leaves people's lives. Why does EVERY story have to have a happy ending? Can I actually sell a story where the ending is really that....the end!

he dies. He feels like his life was a  waste. He's tired of the pain. He wants it all to end. And does.

Would you read this? Would you want more? Would you be angry that you were left with no hope?


  1. A story can be bleak, but I personally do need to be left with some hope. My husband doesn't. I think it's an individual thing. A Thousand Splendid Suns was very dismal, but ended with some hope and I loved it. No Country for Old Men (only saw the film, did not read the book) was extremely dark and had no hope at the end and left me feeling incredibly unsatisfied.

  2. Very interesting, Jai. I have to say that it is not a book I would read, but I go out of my way to avoid such topics in my reading. I do think there is totally a place for that type of book though, and it can be very successful. People will draw their own conclusions from it. I say go with it, see where it leads you, and be proud that you are being brave!

  3. Bleak novels have certainly been popular but I think you've got to provide some kind of uplift during the course of the story. It's sadly the case that readers do not want to read all kinds of stories; they want something that they will be able to enjoy and want to read again.

    This doesn't mean you have to end it really well; you can cheat and do the story backwards, for example, ending on the hope and youthful exuberance of a young couple. Or show a powerful relationship with a carer, something that people can relate to.

    There doesn't need to be hope but there needs to be something there to enjoy, you know? Wading through depressing material may not be that enjoyable unless you write completely beautiful prose.

  4. Interesting question, Jai. Personally, I don't like invest time and emotion into a book's characters if they're going to leave me in despair. I'd rather not read that book. But that's not to say they're not published - they are! And I've been caught and not known until final pages.

    Life can deal some cruel situations. For some people it just is not easy. And yes, death is so final. And when it follows intense suffering, there is almost that sense of relief. No more pain. But I'm wondering if there is not something positive to be drawn from it all - even in death. Maybe the relationships this character has. Or his strength during adversity. Is his whole life perceived as a waste of time and energy - or does he positively impact on others in some way?

    I have spent considerable time googling to find the name of a book I read that *could* have been a bleak, overwhelmingly hopeless book - a grossly unfair story of missed opportunities, pain, loneliness and waste. A young girl crippled by illness and neglect and left to waste in a mental institution for people with dementia with but a skerrick of stimulation, friendship and understanding. But that skerrick moved mountains. And her tenacity was awesome. But it was written in such a way that it inspired awe and respect. I was saddened, but uplifted. And she did triumph, in her way. There was beauty, commitment and loyalty in the situation.

    Wondering if you can take another look at your story, and maybe find some strength/good in that situation, too – without glossing over the pain. So that you are true to the sadness, but also offering hope.

    (I couldn't find the name of the book, sadly. If I remember it, I'll let you know. I'm sure you'd appreciate it.)

  5. Hi Jai, as everyone else has said I prefer to read books with happiness or hope at the end, although I have read books without.

    I think that for most people, we read to escape from life and get so attached to our characters that if they end in despair we feel it for them. If it ends well, however, we rejoice for them and leave the book feeling uplifted.

    Having said that I have read books where the ending was far from happy. Indeed, one of my favourite books is tragic. However, like Sean says above, the reason I love it is partly because the author writes such beautiful prose it almost comes across as poetry. Also, she changed the order of the book (a bit like in Pulp Fiction) so you end on a high, even though you know that chronologically it was tragic. It was written by Arundathi Roy and is called The God of Small Things - definitely worth a read if you get a chance!

    Another one I read was On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. This book utterly depressed me because both characters ended up miserable. The strength of the female was unmistakable but the sadness that pervaded the book was too much for me to bear.

    Another example is Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, which encompasses sadness and tragedy but all the way through is the strength of love and hope so it becomes bearable to read.

    I feel slightly like I am harping on but I do believe there is a place for sadness and finality, it just has to show that happiness or hope or strength existed, even if only for a short while. Partly so that the reader can connect with the characters and partly so they don't finish the book feeling desolate.

    Hugs x

  6. You don't have to end on a positive note, but I think you do have to end with the idea that, at the very least, your character is going to try something new.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  7. Wow, way to hit us with a tough one. I agree with all of the above comments. But I also think that you can end without hope as long as the end feels like an ending. There has to be some kind of resolution and it doesn't have to be a happy or hopeful resolution.

    But maybe you just need to get the hardest parts of this story on paper - for you - and then when the catharsis has happened, you can end the book in a way that will be more marketable.

    Just adding my 2 cents - from a new follower. You have to do what works for you.