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Jewlyn Rahn
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Good morning, good morning

(Or write in, or what not)

Such as, I believe my writing takes on a more somber mood than anything else (even when trying to write happy things, oh do I struggle with anything happy whilst I seem to flourish in portraying angst) So, I'm just curious if other people happen to find their writing gravitate to a certain mood.

(This could also just be based off how you read things too, I guess)

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  • I think this is a really interesting question. I once tried to write a piece of flash fiction for a writing challenge and the theme was happiness. I couldn’t come up with anything.

    I think this is because, if your characters are happy, there is no story. They’re happy where they are and don’t want anything to change.

    A good story relies on change to drive it forward. So happiness is static which equals no story. And that’s why we need angst.

    I read some writing advice once (can’t remember who by) which said you needed to torture your characters. That is what I do. I feel quite sorry for them sometimes. :)

    So, I’m with you on the angst. Unhappy is good. Although I do like a happy ending - just to be fickle.

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    • I found the end of Romeo and Juliet frustrating when I read it as a teen-ager - ask that bloody stupidity and waste! It just irritated me 😂

      And while we're on the subject of H C Anderson, don't forget The Little Match Girl, the story of a young match seller seeing happy visions in the flames of her burning stock before freezing to death in an alleyway... at Christmas. 

      Ah, Hans, another heartwarming classic 

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      • Or 'The Red Shoes'. Got a nice pair of shoes that give others the impression you're a wee bit above yourself? A curse, exhaustion, horrible mutilation, despair and an early death await! Still, once you've suffered enough and abased yourself enough to have learned your place, God will eventually relent and give you a place in heaven. And you'll be grateful! 👿 

        Made a nice ballet, though! 😄 

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        • Haha! Brilliant. That was the thing with the little match girl - she was taken up to heaven to be with the grandma she adored. A short, miserable life of suffering but you go to heaven with your nan, so that's okay. Very different times 

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        • Brilliant question.

          Kate's right, stories are absolutely about conflict - if everything was perfect in a story, how boring would it be to read? But not all conflict had to be horrifying.

          I regularly write for a women's magazine that must have happy endings, that can't include swearing, extreme violence, or very unpleasant themes. You can write cosy crime for them but the murder must happen offstage. This sounds like it could be quite bland but I usually write historical mysteries, often women faced with family secrets, relationship issues. It's amazing how easy I find it to write these things, especially as my usual stories are fantasy chillers with a supernatural twist, slipping into (light) horror. I don't do blood baths but I certainly put my characters through the wringer. 

          No miserable endings though. I find it hard to kill main characters I've grown to love. 

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          • I can’t kill off characters I love either! I can torment them but I always give them happiness at the end. A bit like Jane Austin - the master of emotional torture.

            Eek- what does that say about our psyche?

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            • Haha! Not sure what it says about us, though I know I'm always sad as a reader when the main characters I've grown to like are killed. Same with films.

              I'm prepared to kill off lesser characters - in my current WIP the mother of one of the main characters is going to die by the end, though some would say what she's done... Put it this way, she won't receive a mother if the year award!

              But my main characters are by and large good, if messed up, people and I just don't think they deserve to die! And I'm writing a haunted house story, so I guess the norm might be too kill them off at the end.

              Besides, there may wriggle room for a sequel 😀

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            • I guess it depends a bit on genre. I love writing happy and excited but I'm writing for small children. There has to be some challenge to overcome and make it an interesting story and a bit of sadness or anger is great but my general feel is upbeat and cheerful and wrapped in sunshine and flowers (or mud and beetles, whatever floats my character's boat!)

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              • That is incredibly true. Given, it was probably your taste in writing the soft fluffy stuff that gravitated you to children's books. (Unless we are going for the morbid stories that we eventually made child friendly even though they were intended for children to begin with (I want to say there are quite a few morbid little lullabies floating about)) 

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              • What an interesting question! And one I'm struggling to answer. I've honestly never thought about it, and now I am, to my astonishment I don't actually know. What does that say about me? 😅 

                I agree that it's probably easier to write the angsty stuff because it's part of the overall conflict that our characters have to go through to change and develop. But truthfully I always like to try to leaven even the hardest times with a bit of lightness - even if it's 'gallows humour'.

                Two seminal writers from my childhood / adolescence reading were Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber, and I think that's because although their protagonists go through hardships and loss, troubles and grief, they always do so with a quip and a smile - at fate, at the vagaries of life, at the gods, at themselves. The characters, and the books, always cock a wry smile at themselves and their lives.

                That's not to say that the conflicts and hardships are trivialised. Not at all. The rage and sadness and pain are real. But they're seen as part of the cycle of existence, to be endured for a while and then forgotten for a while as the wheel of the multiverse spins on and joy or happiness just as inevitably take their place. 

                I think that meeting of sorrow and tragedy with stoic, almost amused acceptance can be a very human (and humanising) trait. But difficult to get right when writing it... there's always the danger of trivialising the pain or minimising the peril of the situation. But done well, I think it can be both poignant and powerful, and wonderful in terms of characterisation.   

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                • Haha, maybe it says that you like to write everything?

                  Oh that makes sense. And if done properly it could be amazing (but as you mentioned, depending on how the writer handles it, it might end up making light of the situation).

                  Though I have to say, my liking towards that kind of humor definitely depends on the type of story that is being told. There are some stories where I'd just rather there was no humor (or very little) (This is more for the stories where the point is showing someone at an incredibly low point (or falling to that point) and focusing on the hurt/comfort side of life)


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                • Characters need to be tortured. If you think about your own life it's not a bed of roses is it? There are happy times and sad times. People die, lose their jobs, split up, find love, get married, have kids, get ill, recover, - your leading man or lady needs challenges to make the reader interested.

                  I was talking the other day to a musician friend who said you should write a book about the Covid19 pandemic. I pointed out, as bad as this is, a death rate of about 0.65% (so far) isn't really a good basis for an apocalyptic novel. We need to exaggerate the angst and the challenges that face our leading men and ladies or there's simply no story...

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                  • I'm confused. Happy times? You'll need to explain that concept to me.

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                  • Aww Rick!! LOL

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                    • 😥 I give up. Let's go get a drink.

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                      • That's the same point I get to, except the drink. (Can't stand the stuff.)

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                        • I drink enough wine for us both, all you have to do is show up. Talk about night and day! I guess it's true, opposites attract😘

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                        • I switch between tragedy, and confoundment, the latter being when I am in love.

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                          • I'm finding it difficult to write about anger and pain, sadly, two things I know a lot about.  The anger mostly comes from an inflamed sense of injustice and the impotent desire to change it.  Pain, well, 30 years of headaches and migraines is enough of an explanation for that.

                            The problem with these two concepts is simple: readers often can't identify with them on the personal level that I do.  My first novel ripped into these with a vengeance.  The novel is long-winded (200k words) and filled with long stream-of-consciousness sections where the MC tries to make sense of his feelings.  Now, that novel will never see print.  It's part auto-biographical and part supernatural horror.  But I wrote it for the need to express those things.  I'm finding anger a much easier emotion to write on now that I've "gotten it out of my system," but it is still a very difficult emotion to portray in a way that doesn't push the reader completely out of the story.  Going on an "F-bomb" rant in the privacy of my own bedroom can help.  Doing it in a book creates a hostility the reader might simply draw away.

                            As for pain, it is also a difficult thing to transcribe into written form.

                            The helpless feeling of a pulsing wave of sickening agony as it rips through your head, each heartbeat more devastating than the last, until you start to wonder if it might be better to simply skip the next heartbeat, and the next, and all the rest that come after.

                            See how that sounds?  Whiney, pathetic, craven.  Is that a character you'd want to cheer for?  But I'm telling you, that's exactly how it feels some days.  Getting that into a story without creating a pathetic character is extremely difficult.  My MC in my current project is going through increasingly bad headaches and its been a challenge to keep it toned down, especially since it is a first-person narrative.

                            So, these two emotional moods are my biggest challenges and, hopefully, my biggest rewards since they're teaching me better ways to express ideas.

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                            • Almost all of the books I've written since at least 2018 have dealt mostly with apathy, depression, and suicidal ideation. I've gotten a ton of feedback saying people think I need to lighten up more, which might be true, but I don't know. There's a song called Rotten Apple, by Alice in Chains, that PERFECTLY shows how I want my books to feel like. Sort of like a slow and almost consensual descent into a grey misery. I think those books are really interesting, but it is a little bit tiring when you have to defend ending books on a downer instead of showing the main character rise above their challenges!

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