Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shattering The Happiness

Yesterday, I was paging through my "To Read" collection on my Kindle and came across a free book I'd downloaded last month. I read a couple pages, then backed out and deleted it. No, it wasn't because the book was horribly written. The beginning featured a man and his pregnant wife, and I knew that she would die. (That's not a spoiler; it's part of the blurb. I may have subconsciously remembered that when I started the book, but I couldn't even remember the title.) I didn't want to experience her death.

We all know that happy characters make for poor fiction; they need to deal with problems to move through the story. I've certainly given my characters their share of troubles. But as a reader, when a story starts with characters in a good situation that I know won't last, I'm reluctant to break that veneer of happiness and plunge into pain. It's easier to start with them already dealing with their problems. I had the same problem with Louise Cooper's Indigo series; it started with the princess happy with her family and her betrothed. I didn't want her to ruin everything, even though there would be no story without her reckless action. I read the first couple of pages, then abandoned the book and the series.

Is this quirk unique to me, or do other people hesitate to "shatter the happiness"? Have you found books where the end justified shattering the happiness at the beginning?


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I think that there should have been less spoilers in the blurb so that you could have enjoyed the read. That sucks. But no, I secretly think that many of us are voyeurs to misery. However, knowing ahead of time kind of changes the game. A good author should strive to trick the reader and get the hook set before pulling out all the conflict.

DRC said...

I do cringe over a characters actions and ask them why (maybe in my head take them aside and slap them a few times) but I still read the book.

Sarah McCabe said...

I think I am more likely to shy away from stories that do stuff like this when it resurfaces personal pain. I can't stand books or movies that involve kids caught in divorces for this reason.

And I think there are many authors who go too far in trying to make their characters suffer for the sake of conflict. To the point where it's just no longer any fun to read.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Michael--The deaths were part of the setup, so I don't think they could have been left out of the blurb. I guess I was expecting that the deaths had occurred prior to the start of the novel and that I wouldn't have to go through them directly. The funny thing is I can deal with deaths already in progress (without the happy stuff first) or deaths that happen later.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

DRC--Yes, there have quite a few characters that I've wanted to slap for one reason or another. ;)

Sarah--I think you made some good points. I'm more sensitive to pregnancy issues now than before I became a mother, for instance. Too much suffering is no fun either, like Mockingjay.

Maria Zannini said...

I get annoyed with too much suffering. If I want to read that kind of stuff I can follow the atrocities in China and Africa.

At the very least, the protagonist has to be someone who makes me feel that s/he can rise above it--eventually.

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