Okay, so I know the title of this post is sort of weird. But if you are an avid reader, serious writer, or big fan to any extent, you may find such a post appetizing. After all, us readers, writers, and geeks tend to enjoy harrowing stories that follow characters who are thrown into very tough hardships. But why would we call this emotionally harrowing? I’ve got some answers to that question below, as well as reasons for why it’s important and worth struggling with those deep emotions over stories that never happened.
1. We cry over the deaths of fictional characters too often. It’s bittersweet in an awful sort of way. You start writing/reading the book (or movie or TV series) and you immediately surrender your soul to the author: “Take me. Give me a good story. Just don’t kill my favorite character.” And then the author decides to be an evil ruthless mushroom and goes ahead and kills your favorite character. And what are we left to do?
Is this even healthy? Even if you’re not a crier, your heart still breaks, doesn’t it? You trusted the author or movie director. And yet they live off enslaving their readers only to ruin their lives at the end. Psssst. I’m a writer, so I know aaaaalll about that. I’ve experienced both sides. I’ve even written scenes where I kill my favorite character and I cry while I’m typing because I’m losing a kindred spirit and yet I know it’s the right thing to do. My emotions sway more than I think my readers’ will because I wrote it myself and the characters are actually my close friends.
2. Every story has depressing points in the plot for it to be a good story, and those are the stories we love so dearly. Think of every story you hold special in your heart. For me, those stories are such like Lord of the Rings, Les Miserables, Narnia, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Star Wars, Your Lie in April, Star Trek, and the list goes on. Not all of those stories I’ve listed has killed favorite characters, but if you’ve watched Return of the King when Frodo leaves Sam at the end without crying or at least acknowledging you are witnessing a very sorrowful event, you are not human. Every story is about the characters and the trials they go through, the people they lose, the things they must give up or go through to attain what, in the end, is the most important. We’ve become attached to the characters and we can’t bear to read or see such horrible things happening to them that they didn’t deserve (or maybe they do deserve them which is still just as hard). And yet, at the end, good wins (unless you’re reading a stupid tragedy in which everyone dies, in which case: stop it, you don’t deserve to be so emotionally traumatized as all that) and these special stories speak life, truth, and point out what is really the most important thing in life. They hold up love, peace, joy, friendship, and overall epicness that speaks to every reader or viewer. Many of them appeal to the little kid inside of us that still wants to believe.
3. We become attached to characters who never even existed. This is probably the best reason I’ve come up with so far. Not only are your crying over the deaths of characters, you’re sobbing over people who have never existed. Here’s my theory: You’re crying because those people never existed in the first place. *nods* I have too much experience. You’ve spent time reading or watching this story about these precious people, and then the book or movie ends, sometimes leaving some of those people dead, and you want back in. You want to live that experience again. If only these characters existed in real life. If only Narnia was a real place. If only there was such a thing as hobbits. If only I could get my hands on a real wand. If only Sherlock Holmes really lived in London. … though I’m kinda sorta glad Hunger Games is fictional?
The point is, it’s like you’ve gone on an adventure with these characters who have become your friends (imagination is wonderful) and have grown close to them through the situations in the story. At the end, either characters die or there’s just no more to the story and it leaves you in kind of a depressing place, with the reality blaring in your face: Those people you shared an adventure with never existed. (Psst now you can go back and reread or rewatch it and laugh and cry and be awed all over again; it’s all good.)
4. You wish that these characters were real so you could go on the physical adventure and experience with them, but you can’t, and so you have an empty longing inside for something you know could never happen.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt to wish your fandoms were real. It would be wonderful to interact with the characters who taught us so much and gave us precious memories. Nor does it hurt to want to, rather, become a fictional character with them.
That would be cool, but then you’d have to experience the emotional trauma all over again in “real life.” I’m just being realistic here, but then what’s realistic about wanting to join your favorite characters in their extraordinary worlds?
5. We writers get the feels doubled. We have to create our characters, give them problems, write their story, and kill characters off, if need be. And we’re none the better emotionally for it. Being a fangirl is all just a bunch of tears and flailing and squealing obsessiveness, I get it, but being a writer? Let’s just say, a writer has to really think over every single possible feeling that’s going into their story. Not only that, but they’re connecting with their characters on a deeper, even spiritual, level than their readers will. Why? Because we created them. We’ve loved them. We’ve given them their weaknesses, their strengths, their quirks, we’ve given our characters feelings themselves. And we’re not doing it just for one character; we’re diving into the psychological make-up of every member of our book’s cast. And that’s quite an emotional feat.
Being a writer is a life full of sweat, tears, stiff fingers, disorganized pages, crumbled and wrinkled papers, eraser dust, and maybe sometimes even blood (hopefully it’s just dry, cracked knuckles?). In my opinion, writers are deeper thinkers and experience a different kind of depression that comes when one has to write a whole book about the traumatic events of their characters’ lives, of the struggles they go to great lengths to overcome.
When a writer finishes a book, the world is quiet. Peaceful. When I won NaNoWriMo this year, it was the first time I’d ever written a whole novel-length story in my life. It seemed like a wonderful accomplishment worth celebrating. But when I wrote the last word, I felt an odd stillness, like I was supposed to stop and simply listen to what my characters were trying to tell me: “Good work, Susannah. We’re proud of you for putting yourself through this with us. Now
you can go through the horrible process of editing by yourself other people can read it, but the our story you wrote is special to only to its author and characters in a unique way that the readers will never experience.” Finishing NaNoWriMo is completing a crazy challenge. It required a lot of stress, a lot of brain power, moments of hopelessness and, you guessed it, emotional hardship. But it was so relieving at the end to just be done with it and feel like I’d accomplished something great. The struggle was worth it.
And so I enjoyed a moment of silent celebration.
I’ll finish this post by leaving you with something to think about. Here it is:
Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts as they are much appreciated. Please, rant and rave in the comment box below.