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Updated: Oct 31, 2022

It crept up on me, I turned another page, and it leapt off the page. Every single one of the characters in the novel I am reading is sad. Some are very sad. Even the minor characters are sad and regret their past decisions and actions. The children are also sad, already disappointed with their lives. There are no jolly old aunts or funny crazy neighbours or happily mischievous children. I didn’t recognise the heavy unremitting sadness until page 206 because the writing is excellent and the story is intriguing. A quick survey of the characters in this novel:

Husband sad

First wife very sad

Second wife sad

Female child 1 strange, sad

Female child 2 strange, sad

Female prisoner 1 very sad

Female prisoner 2 very sad

Neighbour husband sad, regretful

Neighbour wife sad, regretful

Concerned citizen sad, obsessed

At this point, I considered whether to continue reading because the novel is so full of sad, joyless, damaged people. But there is a mystery that pushes me along wanting to know why a terrible thing happened in the past and the fate of a lost child. I decide to keep reading because of the ‘hook’ of wanting to know the answers which remain hidden from the characters and me, the reader.

Reading this novel makes me wonder about writing a work of fiction that is filled with sad people and tragic situations. Is it a wise thing to do to yourself as an author and to your readers? I can imagine the author sitting down at a desk and every time she writes a mist of sadness falls over her. As writers, should we not include one or two characters who are joyous and hopeful in our tales of tragedy and woe? Is this why the crime genre works so well because, as readers, we pin our hopes on the ‘hero’ police detective who will solve the case and bring the criminal(s) to justice.

Fiction writers are investigators of the human psyche and soul. We are attracted to writing about people who experience tragedy. If we wrote only about happy contented people, there would be little or no drama. Unfortunately, people’s happiness is not particularly interesting to read. However, it is interesting, even essential, to provide some light in the shade of our characters and storyline. We need to counterbalance the darkness and despair with joy and the reassurance of hope.

What do you think? Should we write in some lightness, some joy and, most of all, some hope even when we are telling a dark tale?

I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes


p.s. If you would like the details of the book I am reading, please get in touch (see below).

Contact Lynne on 0421 998749 or via the Contact Form.

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1 Comment

Mason Bushell
Mason Bushell
Sep 24, 2022

I think a good story will have characters of every emotion just as the real world is. Too many happy ones or sad ones can damage the feeling of a book, and yet a good balance can lead to mysterious, or interesting characters as the reader longs to know why they feel as they do.

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