Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finding the Funny

My post today is more of a musing than a real writing post. I've just become increasingly aware from the headlines on Yahoo and the postings of friends on Facebook how it seems as a collective whole we are all going a little crazy. It seems like people are dealing with tragedies and stress in unbelievable numbers - untimely passings of family and friends, home foreclosures, jobs lost, lives being forced to shift and change in unplanned ways. This feeling of personal and literal dystopia seems echoed in the movie and book offerings of the time in record numbers, which on some level offers a bizarre comfort that we are not alone in our personal day-to-day struggles. But wouldn't that mean, more than ever, there is a demand for things that make us feel good, that take us away from our problems and give us hope?

We, as writers, make choices in what we present to our readers. I, personally, feel a sense of responsibility, to remain committed to bringing the light rather than furthering the darkness. After 9/11, I could no longer stomach thrillers and horror movies and stories that didn't offer promise of a better day or the discovery of a safe place. When I choose to disengage from the world, I want to laugh and be entertained, and to forget for the moment what is rattling around in my brain. I remain committed to creating those kinds of stories for an audience that both wants and needs them, regardless of their popularity or current trends.

I started writing a book last year that I got 140 pages deep in to. It was a dark, dramatic story dealing with themes of teen suicide, hopelessness and the main character's journey of self-discovery. While this type of story has a strong foothold in the current market, every time I sat down to write it I would just get . . . depressed. I couldn't exist in the hearts and minds of these characters for very long without needing to take a break from them and find the funny again. It's not to say I won't ultimately return to this story and complete it. I will. But I knew it was not what I needed to write and where I wanted to be the second I sat down and started writing my current novel, which is a light, humorous, romantic road trip novel. It literally did something to the endorphins within me, to laugh and to feel the excitement of a blossoming romance. There is still a story of self-discovery here, but it's a more upbeat one, and that's the haven I want to offer my readers as well.

Don't get me wrong - I admire the incredible imaginations of some of today's authors and the amazing stories they tell, but at the end of the day, I know who I am and what I'm good at and what I want to write. There is plenty of time to experiment later, down the road. When my readers think of me, I want them to conjure up images of stories that make them laugh out loud and give them butterflies in their stomach and capture the essence of what it feels like to be sixteen.

Do you feel committed to anything in particular as you write? Are there certain kinds of stories you feel you are driven to tell? Is there a certain feeling you get when you are writing that lets you know this is "your" story? And if you tend to write darker stories, what makes you feel connected to these stories more than others? Are these also the same types of stories you like to read to escape and entertain?


Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I was actually having a conversation about this with a friend recently. I think popular genres come in waves. After dystopians die down, I think we'll see a resurgence of feel good stories. We need them, I think. Mine always tend to be stories of triumph in dark times. And often, there's a level of wit and humor imbued into the characterization to help bear the weight of the difficult situations I submit my characters to. I can't do the everybody dies and/or goes crazy stuff. So depressing. I can't live inside the minds of really sad characters. I tried that for years and could never finish a book, just as you did with that dark book of yours. I don't have the mental capacity for it. I treasure my mental health too much.

Christina Lee said...

I just had this conversation with my sister. There are so many things i could about write based on dark experiences I've had but I just don't want to go there... yet. but I will, someday! LOVED this (new follower)! *waves*

Jessica Love said...

Sometimes I try to be all literary and serious, but right now that's just not me. I am very driven to tell funny and romantic stories, it's just what comes to my head. They are usually complicated, and the girls aren't your typical YA girls, but I'm just not one to do serious. Not right now, anyway.

Robin Reul said...

Welcome Christina! Glad to hear I'm not alone on this one. :)

Adventures in YA Publishing said...

I tend to read all over the place, but I write dark with an edge of hope. I think for me it's all about the contrast. You raise such an important point. We need to consider what kind of stories we want to share with our readers, and what kind of expectations we want to build along with our audience.

Thanks for a lovely post!


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