Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Grief

Dear Grief,

You are a necessary part of my writing. And I don't mean that I have to experience grief when I'm trying to write—though goodness knows, sometimes I want to tear my hair out or find a wall to bang my head on when writing some scenes.

It's just that I have found a common thread in many of my stories. At some point, chances are I have at least on character who grieves. Maybe they're grieving over something they did, over something they have to do, over something that happened to them. Maybe they're ignoring it because something so terrible occurred and they just can't deal with it. There are all sorts of other emotions that can come into play—anger, bitterness, frustration, loss—but you're still there.

The thing about it is that I, as the writer, have a very "joy comes in the morning" mentality. There are horrible things that happen to my characters. Disgusting things. Heartbreaking things. Some of my characters have it easier. Some of them walk through the darkest pits. The thing about this that allows me to write through their traumatic experiences is that I know there is a light on the other side.

I could write a story that was completely happy, but where would the conflict be? Why would anyone believe that these characters are happy if they never see what it's like when they're sad or in pain? You, Grief, can sometimes be very, very subtle. Maybe someone feels dull pain over something that might not be considered "huge." Other times, you are very raw and powerful and can totally make or break a character.

Life isn't clear-cut. Everyone wants happiness, but we all go through periods of heartache. I hope that in writing the dark things that happen in my characters' lives, it will make their victories and joyous occasions that much more powerful.

A Writer Who Puts Her Characters Through Much Grief

*Question: Do you think your story has to have some element that brings the characters through darkness, despair, grief, pain, or something of the like before they can come out of it?


  1. To answer your question, absolutely.

    CHaracters, like people, go through bad times and emerge if not stronger, at least changed. No one wants to read a story where every single person is very happy from beginning to end.

  2. Grief is not a prevalent theme in my writing mostly because I shy away from it. Still I really enjoy reading stories where characters breakout of this funk at the end and begin to live life again. As kind of a rebirth.

  3. There are many different levels of grief but people read to feel. And going from joy to grief and back again will leave a reader satisfied!

  4. I put my characters through an emotional and physical ringer. I hope that when the series is all said and that that they might find some good times to be had, but I just can't make any promises. =)

    But the joy to grief and back again arc is always a good one.

  5. Absolutely, without going through the darkness, how can they see the light! Conflict drives the story...and when it's with your character it will bring about he biggest change!

  6. I think some element of grieving is powerful in writing. Human beings are always in flux, always struggling in some way. I think that you raise a very good question about stories with characters who half to wade through some difficult emotions or circumstances. Readers will usually identify with that struggle and hopefully rebirth. Terrific post!

  7. I really put my characters through it, throwing every horrible thing I can at them. 'Out of the frying pan into the fire' is my writing mantra!

  8. Absolutely. If there isn't any grief then the story is just sunshine and lollipops the whole way through.

    So allow your people a taste of happiness and then take it away!

    (you can also laugh maniacally if you want, sometimes it helps)

  9. It's basic that people like to read about characters to whom they can relate. So when we see see characters experiencing our grief, then overcoming it... it gives us hope that we can do the same.
    Meet Adam Jones

  10. My character's are put through much grief too. It's good for them, though :) And the story.

    Awesome post!

  11. If there isn't some kind of grief going on, then the book would be boring. The more grief the more intense the story becomes.

  12. I surprise myself sometimes with the amount of grief that is in my stories... I think maybe it's for the same reason I like to watch sad movies... my emotion meter gets exercised.

  13. Thanks for all the replies, everyone! Sorry that I haven't always been able to reply individually on these A-Z blogs. I've been so under the weather for the past week and a half and still trying to keep up on so many things. I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing what all of you think and how you write/read. :D

  14. I think grief is necessary for character development, whether it is minuscule or large-scale. First, it's realistic; second, it creates empathy; and third, it creates a contrast between the moments of grief and the moments of joy.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!