I actually don’t really know why I write angst. I’ve given it a lot of thought recently because I’ve been writing fairly depressing stories. First it was a mother losing her son and donating his organs. Then there was a story about a suicidal man. Next will be the little girl with the abusive father, and after that the PTSD war vet bonding with an abused cat. In fanfiction the game was already so depressing I didn’t have to do much to make it dark. The stories were angst by default. I also wrote several funny pieces in fanfiction. I have not felt the urge yet to write a comedy piece in original fiction. Maybe I will. I’m actually doing okay mentally but the urge to write angst continues.
I’m a super emotional person. Anyone that knows me well knows that I experience extreme emotional highs and lows. After 25+ years on this Earth I’ve realized I don’t process emotions in a normal way. Everything hits me much harder and longer. I avoid movies if I know they are going to be sad because I will shut down. It happens with books as well. People have often told me that I’m super sensitive, and tell me to be less so, but I can’t. It would be like someone telling me to stop being tall. I can’t help it. Even in flats I’m very tall. This quality contributed to my self-hatred, but I’m okay with it now. I can’t change the fact that emotions have a profound effect on my psyche. What I have control over is situations eliciting strong emotions, and I avoid them as much as possible. There are some positive things associated with emotional super-feelers, but that’s not really the point of this blog post.
Maybe it’s cathartic to unburden my tormented soul with words. My characters feel real in my heart, yet I don’t cry as we journey through the story together. It doesn’t take much to make me cry either. Perhaps it’s because I put only a bit of myself in them. When I get really upset I shut down and can’t function. I can’t write in a really depressed state because there’s nothing left for me to give. All of my energy is funneled into my own angst. In the rare case that I write in such a state, it comes out all messy and garbled because I’m not thinking clear enough to write beautiful prose.
I read someone’s writing list of do’s and don’ts that angst was cliche. She argued that angst was easy to write, and I would have to say I disagree. It’s difficult to write angst well and not have it come off as corny or melodramatic. I think there is beauty in tragic stories, and those are the ones we tend to remember. Stories are memorable for different reasons. The ones with a lasting impact for me are the tragedies and the stories with strong political/cultural statements.
Something new that I learned is that the angst isn’t the important part of the story, it’s about the character’s reaction to the tragedy, and their journey to make sense of the tragedy. I kind of figured this out after more than one person commented on the flash fiction piece (the one with the mother losing her son) that nothing was happening. It was just about sharing this character’s sadness. They were right, and that’s why I decided to expand it. I think it’s often the way we react to bad things in our life that shows who we really are.
Dr. Sylvester gave me this link that kind of explains the most common story arcs for tragedies: How to Write a Negative Character Arc It helped me add some structure to my stories. I’m still revising that suicide one. It’s taken like five times longer to edit it than it did to actually write it XD Granted, it’s about 1500 words longer. I have a hard time moving on if I’m so focused on one project.