On Wednesday, my fiction writing teacher asked us why we tell stories. We each had our own answers, many of us had more than one. As the list started getting longer and longer, I realized that there might be a million reasons and we’d never be able to sum them all up.
I like that we couldn’t pile all our answers into a three word phrase. We each tell stories for different reasons. I can’t speak for everyone, but every story I tell has it’s own motivations.
Each time I go through the notes for the story I’m currently working on I, without fail, think something along the lines of, “Why is this so sad?”
Over time, we all experience varying degrees of sadness. Depending on what is happening, this emotion can creep into every part of our lives. In my personal experience, I’ve found it necessary to some how find a way to move past, not always get over, whatever is making me sad.
As a writer, it has always been pretty obvious what will help me do this. Sometimes it might take me a little bit to get there, but I usually end up in front of my computer or with a pen in hand.
I do not find that writing cures me of sadness, just as it doesn’t suck out my happiness, but it has other purposes.
First, writing helps me make sense of emotion, be it sadness, happiness, or anything in between. I tend to demand more clarity for negative emotions, so when I go through my “random thoughts” file I often find more inspiration on that end of the spectrum.
Second, it gives me characters to relate to. This is where writing becomes similar to reading. I pick up books and often find characters experience similar emotions to my own. It gives me a sense of security. Books are a collection of the human race and a way we can find the normality in our own lives.
In the same way, my own characters become a reflection of my experiences, but in different contexts. By creating their worlds and relating them to mine, I show myself, and hopefully others, how these emotions are real and a part of life.
Stories can do all of this without trivializing a reader’s situation. As much as sadness, happiness, anger, love, or any other emotion is a part of life, it doesn’t make them any less vivid or important to the person going through them. Reading stories, and for me writing them, honors the significance of each person’s experiences.
Looking through my creative work I find a number of sad stories, for each one I can name the inspiration. Not only do they relate to my life, but they are intended to relate to my readers’ lives.
Honestly, that is why I write anything, but no one has ever asked me why I write happy stories.