Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For writers, tragedy is a good thing

Caught up in the moment
No one wants to read about everything going right.  Readers want things to go wrong so they can watch the characters find their way through their difficulties.  Houses burn down, people get sick or lost or lose their jobs.  They get angry and lose their temper.  We readers know this happens in real life.  Watching someone go through these kinds of difficulties and come out the other end stronger gives us hope.

In my classes, my students often ask me questions after we have finished a book.  So many times they are questions I cannot answer because the characters aren't real, and I cannot call them up and check on their progress.  But often my students see them as real, that there is more yet to come.  Every writer should aspire to the kinds of questions my students ask.

  • Did he go back and find her?
  • Why did she leave him if she knew he needed her to stay awhile longer?
  • Will they every see each other again?
  • Did she have an unhappy childhood?
  • What did her family think about what she did?
All I can say is, "I am not sure.  Why do you think they did it?" Or some other statement to put it back on them to consider the possible answers.  Their question are proof that my students have connected to the characters.

Readers find understanding, lessons and experience in the books they read.  This is why writers find tragedy a good thing.  It makes our characters live in reality in a way that brings our readers insight and emotional release while they are "safe" from reality at the same time.  

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