Friday, April 27, 2007

Sorrow and Writing

Hello again!
Today I am going to post some thoughts on sadness in writing. I do know a little about this, because in the book I am currently writing, one of my main characters' wife dies at the very first. Some may think, "Oh, how sad!" while others are rolling their eyes, saying, "Oh please, not again!" True, this idea has been used countless times, but you really do care if it was set up right. Many of us have become hooked on the suspense/action thriller 24. (Spoilers follow for those who haven't seen the 1st season.) Throughout the whole series, 24 focuses mostly on Jack Bauer, and all through the 1st season, his wife and daughter are in constant peril, while he is trying to save them and is stop a plot to assassinate the Senator. The whole thing is a cliff-hanger. And then, at the very end, when we are so sure that Jack and his colleagues have triumphed, than his wife dies. That's it. End of the road. She's dead, she was pregnant, it's all over for him. But he returns in the 2nd season (more spoilers) and now, he doesn't feel like he has a purpose in life, except for maybe his daughter, Kim, who now ignores him as much as possible. She doesn't want to be around her father, who needs her now more than ever! She is ignoring him for her own selfish reasons. Could things get any worse for beloved Jack, whom we now know and care for? Well, actually they could. This season, he is trying to stop a nuclear bomb from dropping on LA. At the near end of the season, he finds out that, even though they have the bomb, there is no way to disarm it. The only way is to fly it into a secluded area and let it, the plane, and worse, the pilot, blow up. Jack is the pilot. The best scene in the whole season is when he and Kim say good buy over the phone. Could you get any sadder? No hope. Not one tiny grain of hope, and then one of Jack's friends, who had been infected by radioactive material earlier in the day (he was going to die anyway) took out the plane and brought Jack a parachute. If Jack had died, 24 wouldn't have been the same, because he is basically the star of the show, and now, everybody likes him. (Why? Because they feel sorry for him and he tries to do the right thing. Most of the time, anyway.) Now, in my book, my main character is introduced, as is his wife, and then, they go on a fateful gallop over a muddy field, and her horse slips, and she breaks her neck. Although I didn't explain the death in extreme detail, I feel like it was effective, because I made my character's sorrow as sharp and apparent and bleak as I could. Out of five people that read it, two said that it nearly made them cry, someone else said that they felt for my character. I spent two pages letting my readers get to know my characters and letting them get to know their love for each other. This way, they felt for my character when she died. Deaths are very effective in literature, because it generally makes the characters involved sad, and often the readers as well. To write a good story, you have to be hard on your characters, especially the heroes. Heroines too, but somehow heroes just seem like they go over a little better. Believe it or not, I really enjoy writing really dramatic scenes. Especially sad ones! Or at least the ones that jerk tears from our eyes. I will post more thoughts soon!
Anna Elizabeth Hedges

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