Thursday, January 7, 2010

When nothing good ever happens?

I used to watch the show Hereos. I know it's a hard thing for me to admit, but its first year was really good. The characters were great and the storylines even better. I found myself routing for the characters and wanting them to find love, success, and happiness. But no one ever did. Yes it's good to have tension, problems and dire circumstances, but eventually that's all the show was about. I got sick of watching people die and suffer all the time.

There has to be little snippets of something good to keep the readers wanting to read more. (At least that's what I think)

Today I read a review of a book that made me think.

The author's luminous prose never falters, he's a master. Alas, the same can't be said for the reader's emotional investment.

No matter how well we write, if the reader doesn't want to read the story no amount of excellent sentence structure will solve that. I think we need to balance the perils of our characters situations with a little humor, love, and happiness.

What do you think?

29 comments:

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I think it's definitely important to connect with a reader. That is hard to do, however, since so much about writing (and reading) is subjective.

I never watched that show on tv, but saw a few episodes on dvd this past summer. Now I'm glad I didn't get to finish it. :0)

Kristi Faith said...

I'm one to feel that something positive needs to come from every two negatives. LOL :0) I definitely want my readers to feel joy just as much as sorrow. Besides, the sorrow is what makes the joy so sweet.

Mim said...

I think that a connection between the reader and the character is one of the most important elements of a story. It is difficult to keep reading if nothing matters in the story.

Tamika: said...

I agree! I remember watching a movie that struck the main character with blow after blow- honestly my heart couldn't take anymore. Happiness seemed to elude the writer's imagination.

Good point!

strugglingwriter said...

I don't like depressing stories very much. I read to be entertained and I enjoy a good tale and a laugh here and there. I don't like being depressed.

I do understand the need for tension and all of that, but I prefer to see, eventually, the protagonist to succeed or at least have some successes.

Patti said...

That's why I'm a firm believer in happy endings.

Dara said...

I agree. While I don't necessarily need a happy ending for a book to be good, there has to be some part of the book where the characters find happiness, even for a little bit.

For example, there's an author I absolutely love--but her latest book was so depressing I just couldn't get through it. Nothing ever went right for the characters and I found myself in a horrible mood as I read it.

A book can have angst, but the characters need to experience something good throughout the course of it at least once. Even the darkest lives have a little light in them at some point.

Terri Tiffany said...

I used to watch Heroes too until it got too confusing! I love a little love and good stuff in my books:))

Susan R. Mills said...

I think a little good has to happen. We hear over and over again to keep throwing more and more obstacles in the path of our characters, but I agree with you, it's important to throw a little good in their direction too.

Natalie Murphy said...

I used to watch Heroes too until I got sick of seeing the same old plotline. It was so boring after a while.

And I agree with you. The characters need to have some happy things going on in their life. If they dont, the reader gets bored.

Kimberly Franklin said...

"Sorrow is what makes the joy so sweet."

I love that saying. A lot. Unfortunately, I'm better at the joy than the sorrow. I'm working on it though and have become down right evil to my characters...I'm sure they hate me! : )

Just as the sorrow makes the joy so much sweeter, they are both equally necessary for a full story that will connect with everyone. : )

Good luck with your writing!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post! Readers have to be rewarded for their efforts. No one wants to keep reading if there isn't an emotional investment in the characters. Balance is a key player. :-)

Patti said...

I agree. I love happy endings but I have been satisfied with some less than happy endings, but only if the character experiences a little success, happiness, love or something at some point.

Melissa said...

Yeah, another former Heroes watcher here. I even tried the beginning of this season, but I can't connect with the characters anymore.

And that comes to the heart of the matter. If you can't identify with characters, even in some tiny way, you loose interest in them. I read a book this year that had a great premise, but I could not click with the mc. Had to force myself to finish the book and ended up wondering how it became a bestseller.

JKB said...

Ditto.

And I agree about Heroes! And the character investment.

lotusgirl said...

I agree. Too much edge of peril stuff wears on my nerves.

Stephanie Faris said...

So true! The problem with an ongoing TV series is that you have to keep throwing obstacles in characters' way, always having conflict. But we can have that same problem in book series we're writing as well. It's not easy to find that balance between the lighthearted, positive stuff and the conflict and angst.

Lisa and Laura said...

Yes, I 100% agree--the balance is essential. While I don't need an ending to be tied up with a pretty little bow, I do need it to be satisfying. As we write, we try to remember this. Sometimes we have a tendency to want to wrap things up in that happily ever after way, but this, too, can be disappointing.

I watched a few episodes of Heroes and lost interest. Maybe you've pointed out why!

Heidi Willis said...

Ouch. That's a stinging review!

I so agree! I read a book this year that I kept wondering why it got such rave reviews (from Oprah even) and not a single uplifting thing happened in the entire book. Seriously depressing stuff. Not a single laugh, or smile, or puppy dog even.

I need the good. I don't mind a good cry in a book, but it has to have some balance!

Carolyn V. said...

I agree. I read a series of books, waiting and waiting and waiting for a happy ending. There wasn't one. I felt so ripped off!

Tara McClendon said...

This is so true. It's the same way in life. If you are a negative individual with nothing good to say about anything, people will probably stop wanting to be around you. Is this life lessons from fiction or fiction mirroring reality?

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

You have no idea how much we see eye to eye on this one! I only watched Heroes the first season too. For all the same reasons.
Great storytelling is an art many can only TRY to master. But boy do I love it when someone does. :)
My blog

Catherine Denton said...

I have friends that still watch it but I'm with you...yeech.

I completely agree with your last statement. If I don't identify with the MC I won't finish the book. But if I care about the MC, even if it's bad writing, I will push through.

Patti said...

I have so many books where I didn't connect with any character and they're still sitting on my bookshelf, spine intact.

giddymomof6 said...

Yay! I agree! You're so wise! I have to have love and happiness somewhere--some sort of hope, or I can't stand the book. I read to escape, not to be taught real life.

Jenni

Natalie said...

I agree. I hate movies (and books) where they never let you down from the suspense. I need something funny or sweet every few minutes or I don't feel a connection with the characters.

jenniferneri said...

I too watched the first season of Heroes but no further. Can I admit I am watching Vampire Diaries? So many plot flaws and yet I am intrigued.

I see the discussion went on to endings. Yes, I need happy endings, or at least some sort of resolution. I tend to create endings for books that do not satsify me. I just did so recently actually.

Jessie Oliveros said...

What a great post, Patti. That's defienitely something we need to remember when writng YA fantasy...we need to include just enough of the fantastical. The rest needs to be real-life issues and emotions that resonate with the reader.

Bethany Mattingly said...

Great post! I agree with you sooo much! There has to be some happiness in there to keep me in the story. I really liked the first season of heros as well.

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