Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When Feeling Bad Feels Good!



The Difference Between Sad Situations that Make a Reader Feel Bad and Those That Make A Reader Feel Good:

It’s Important to Know The Difference

Yesterday, I commented about reading a romance that has made me feel bad as I read it for almost all the 70% of the book that I have read so far. Reading the book is hard going. After I put the book down, I don’t really want to pick it up again to continuing reading. I’m actually more likely to pick up another book instead. That’s very easy to do on a Kindle. With just a click of a button, I can delve into a different book.  


And that is what is happening! While I have been reading this ‘bad feeling’ book, I have started reading two other books: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Kiowa Trail”. I’m 25% into the Hound and 88% into Kiowa and both these books were started after my beginning to read the ‘bad feeling’ book.


Can an Author Write About Sad Situations?


After I wrote yesterday’s blog it occurred to me that some readers may believe that the need to make a reader feel good precludes writing about sad situations. One might think that an author is thus prevented from ever writing about real life situations. However, this is just not the case.


Sad events can be written in a way that will make the reader feel good and have sympathy for the character who is suffering. Some sad situations are life affirming. Today I just started reading one such book, “The Lawman’s Second Chance”  by Ruth Logan Herne. This book starts with the hero feeling bad because of a situation that reminds him that his wife died of breast cancer. He was deeply in love with her.

May First Release



Lieutenant Alexander Steele turned into the parking lot of Gardens & Greens Nursery and pulled up short. Shades of pink surrounded him while huge banners proclaimed the garden center's tribute to breast cancer awareness.

The Southern Tier investigator had three choices. Fight the bile rising in his throat, drive the car away and disappoint his ten-year-old daughter yet again, or man up and choose a parking spot.

He chose the latter and pretended to like it, but he'd been pretending for too long and the garden center's Pink Ribbon Campaign slam-dunked his already damaged heart. Why here? Why now? He'd made the move to Allegany County not only to get away from the city, but also to escape the grief breast cancer had left behind.

Realization hit home. Spring had arrived, finally. May loomed just around the corner. That meant Mother's Day.

Of course. He hadn't thought of that. Was it a deliberate mistake, like so many others of late? Or was he simply bogged down with work and the task of raising three motherless kids?

"Oh, Daddy." Emma's gray eyes rounded as she grasped his hand. "Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your life?"

The crush of pinks wasn't beautiful. Not to him. Not when every ribbon, every banner, every rose-toned bloom and 5K run reminded him of what he'd lost two years before. His wife. His helpmate, appointed by God.

He'd believed that then.




This is indeed a sad situation. The hero is heartbroken after losing his wife who he dearly loved. He finds it painful to look at all the pink flowers. Little does he know that the heroine has also suffered from breast cancer and that her husband has left her because of her ‘missing parts’.  OMG! I want a front row seat for this conflict!
While this is a totally sad situation, it is dealt with a great deal of hope. The reader knows from the first page that help is on the way. The reader is rooting for the hero. The hero and his child are very sympathetic characters. We want them to find happiness and be comforted. And we know they will find happiness because this is a romance with a guaranteed happy ending.

How to Write About Sad Situations


“The Lawman’s Second Chance” shows how to write about a very sad situation without making the reader feel bad. Indeed, such writing can even make the reader feel good -- even some warm fuzzies.  Within a page things are looking up. It seems the reader is joining the story just as the hero’s long night of pain is coming to an end. This alone produces a feeling of hope and relief vicariously in the reader.


The Bad Kind of Feeling Bad


A writer can also make the reader feel bad by having bad things happen to people who are not sympathetic. Like the husband who walks out on a wife who is a shrew and who no one could live with. Besides the wife is not the heroine and we don’t feel much sympathy for her. We just feel bad or uneasy. The abandoned wife also says things that make the other characters in the story very uncomfortable.  
A reader may well feel this unhappy wife deserves what she is getting. That she brings it on herself. How about having a suicide that is not directly related to the hero or heroine but which serves to make those two feel bad (to say nothings of the reader!)  Then there are also characters who are very unsympathetic and who you would not want to be around in real life  yet the author is making you be ‘around them’ vicariously. What a difference between the two approaches.


One story is very sad but your feelings as you read the story are of hope and the anticipation of relief; while the other story is one of despair with little apparent relief in sight. These sad secondary characters might not even be part of the guaranteed HEA.  

Yet, there will be a happy ending to the 'bad feeling' book. Nevertheless, I feel that the happy ending is going to come too late and the reward will not be worth the price paid. Of course, the critics may love this book for making the pain seem so real. The critics could actually feel the pain. But then critics don't read for enjoyment. At least, not the way ordinary readers, who don't have a dog in the fight, read for enjoyment and for how their reading expeience makes them feel as they are reading the book.
Writers Should Be Aware Of What Their Readers Are Feeling on Each Page.

Learning Quote of the Day


“It is when we feel we are learning the most   that we are the least aware of how much more there is yet to be learned.”

Vince Mooney

Monday, April 29, 2013

Learning Quote of the Day


“The Nuns taught me well but then I can never be sure how much learning was due to their efforts and how much was due to the fear of God.”
Vince Mooney

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clear & Present Danger?


Should You Write To the Needs of the Novel or to the Needs of the Reading Experience?
I just made a writing discovery last night.
This experience demonstrates the difference between writing to the ‘needs of the novel’ as I think most  authors do (and editors demand) and writing to ‘the needs of the reading experience.’
I believe that the mega selling authors write to the needs of ‘the reading experience’ and this allows them to violate many writing rules. These authors write to make the reading experience the most enjoyable possible on a page-by-page basis.
You be the judge:
I’m now reading a book by a very good author who I have enjoyed reading very much in the past. This book is not an enjoyable reading experience.  It is full of depressing events. I feel bad most of the time I am reading the book. Think about that. Do we want our readers to feel bad most of the time they are reading our books?
I am even reluctant to pick up the book again after putting it down because I don’t want to feel the way I know it will make me feel. (I read romances for the enjoyment and not as an educational assignment.)
Here’s the point:
There is nothing wrong with the book from a writing POV. Indeed, this book might be loved by the critics. It could get many stars by reviewers. Indeed, the book meets the guidelines for a publishable novel. It’s all there:  GMC, ARCs, etc. It’s just not an enjoyable read.
I did not enjoy reading “The Grapes of Wrath” but it was a great novel. It is something an educated person should read.
Of course, I know the book I am now reading will have a happy ending and all the unpleasant situations will be redeemed by the grace of God and the ending of this book will be happier than it could have otherwise been without all the suffering. I know this will happen. OK. The lower the lows feel, the higher the highs will feel in comparison.  I get it.
But I think reading a romance is like eating a seven course meal. Don’t we expect each course to taste good? What if the seven course meal had six bland or even poor tasting courses but the desert at the end is the best ever because it gains by comparison to the food that went before it? Would we like that meal?
I think a writer should have a ‘feeling meter’ on each page indicating what the reader is currently feeling as she is reading that page and if that feeling is unpleasant for a good part of the book, then the author needs to be aware of this.
I think writing in a way that makes a reader feel bad or depressed is a clear and present danger to the reader finishing the book and/or buying the author’s next book.
Do you have an opinion on this? Do you like a book that makes you feel bad most of the time as you are reading it? As a teenager I enjoyed reading dystopias that made me feel bad. But I don’t enjoy romances that make me feel bad.
Are you as a writer aware of what your reader is feeling as she reads each given page and how those feeling stack up in relation to the entire reading experience as a whole?
Here’s an additional danger: such a book could get good reviews while at the same time providing a dismal reading experience.  This in turn could cause the author to write some more books of the same nature. But then the world is full of authors who get great reviews and weak sales reports.

Learning Quote of the Day


"Learning can be the biggest obstacle to learning. Learning a little and believing it complete can obscure the fact that there is much more to learn while, at the same time, removing the incentive to further learn that which you think you already know."  
Vince Mooney 

“The wise man knows that he does not know.” Socrates


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“Writing a synopsis is just like going on a diet. Everyone can tell you how to do it. It’s not knowing how to do it that’s hard. It’s actually doing it that's the bear!”
Vince Mooney

Friday, April 26, 2013

Principled Uncertainty


“The problem with ‘self’ knowledge or knowledge of the ‘self’ is that as soon as you obtain it, you are no longer the ‘self’ you observed but a new ‘self’ looking back at your old ‘self’ for the first time. You can only know the ‘self’ you were and never the ‘self’ you are. Observing the ‘self’ changes the ‘self’. In this respect, the ‘self’ is not something of which there can be knowledge. Any so-called knowledge of the ‘self’ must be projected into it rather than extracted from it.”

Vince Mooney

Wisdom from the Amish Pantser


“Hey, a horse and buggy works for me.”
Vince Mooney

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“I think you can either change your characters to meet the needs of the story (e.g., plotters picking characters from ‘central casting’ as needed for the story) or you change the story to meet the needs of your characters. (e.g., pantsers getting to know their characters as the story progresses and writing to incorporate those changes.) It’s a question as to who is to be the master:  the character or the author.”
Vince Mooney

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."

(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

The Pondering Pantser


“Pantsers may not know where they are going but they can always use their word count to tell them when they’ve arrived.”
Vince Mooney

Philosophy Quote


“Trying to know your ‘self’ is like trying to know the ‘average’. Not the average of any particular set of numbers but just the average in and of itself. When you really think about it, this is not something of which there can  be knowledge.”  

Vince Mooney

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“The best use of personality tests is to have each of your characters take the test before and after the novel is written.  That way you can see how any change relates to their ARC.”

Vince Mooney

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“You can’t give your characters personality traits any more than you can give real people personality traits. You can only bring out what is already there.”

Vince Mooney

Monday, April 22, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day

“I tried to change my characters’ personality traits and they just laughed at me!”

"You will never get to know your characters. The best you can hope for is that they come to know you. Remember: Your characters have a better view of what is in your head than you do."
Vince Mooney

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Philosophy Quote of the Day


“The meaning of life is a moving target. It’s a recipe that keeps producing different results as we age and discover that life is not what we thought it was.”
Vince Mooney

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“The size of one’s TBR pile is inversely proportional to the time one has to read it.”

Vince Mooney

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day

“A man could write a category romance but it would be like a man writing a book on what it  feels like being a woman.”
Vince Mooney

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“A synopsis is just a blurb with a Greek name.”
Vince Mooney

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“All great stories are great essays written in prose. If a story does not embody the insights to make a great essay, then -- while it may be great entertainment -- it won’t be a great story.“

Vince Mooney

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“Create your novel so that it will still be read with pleasure two hundred years from now.”
Vince Mooney


Friday, April 5, 2013

Famous Writing Quote of the Day


“Great literature is not about the story. Great literature is about what exists outside the story.”
Vince Mooney