These three things have been a hot topic among my Scribe friends this weekend and so I thought I’d give a break down of what the three really mean to a writer, and my thoughts on them, for what they’re worth. I do see an awful lot of books at work(for those who don’t know I work in an Indy Bookstore) and after a while I got rather good at spotting trends. Not that I’m as quick as those who are high up in the publishing industry in spotting the trends, but then they don’t do any hand selling to customers like I do. I get to see a micro sampling of a writers audience in real-time which is rather cool.
I’m going to reverse the order of the topics in the title and start with
King Lear Fiction (End of the Story World)
I’m going to lump in here, Dystopian & Epic Fantasy as well as Supernatural Romance and Supernatural Fantasy (set in our world rather than another time and place). Recently these kinds of books have exploded onto the market, thanks in large part to the success of The Hunger Games, Leviathan, and Divergent to name a few. Books like these have similar parts; the teen hero or young person is stripped away from the family (or is an orphan which really is the same thing) they sacrifice love, their dreams, or themselves.
So far, so good. This is where the story arc can go up into triumph or down into despair. These stories do a nose-dive. Just like in Shakespeare’s King Lear, where there are moments along the storyline that the King could stop the agonizing plunge into darkness and despair, these books have a chance to stop the nose dive and they choose to plumb the depths of misery. The heroes actions don’t save the ones they love, the sacrifice is invalidated, and the evil that they stood against advances often triumphing. Either literally or figuratively, the character’s world is destroyed. And heroes are so damaged as to make me doubt that they will really ever be happy again. I imagine that they are put on suicide watch by the remaining supporting characters.
When I’ve read a book like this, my first reaction is Well, that’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back. And I’m a little depressed. I can’t keep putting that kind of melancholy into my mind, I’ve got my own problems to deal with, thank you very much.
I’m not the only one to feel this way. More and more, readers will ask me as they come in the store “Is this one of those ‘hopeless’ novels? If I answer that it is dark, they’ll put it back on the shelf and ask me for “A book where someone is happy at the end, and they haven’t betrayed their best friend or lost their little sister.”
It’s an interesting phenomenon, people who are facing hard times financially or otherwise, want to read a story where there’s a happily ever after.
This is well documented throughout the Great Depression, where movies and books that had a rosier-tomorrow ending enjoyed a huge boost in sales. People wanted to read stories of hope and adventure. They tended to read books that promised that things were going to get better, and that if they held on and endured, they’d have a happy ending in their own life.
My best guess is that the market is going to be saturated by the King Lear books soon, and the pendulum will swing wildly back the other way and publishers will be looking for the encouraging upward swing instead of the dark plunge.
I was recently reminded by Luke Alistar, that we writers have quite a bit of power, and we should be mindful of what we are putting in our readers heads.
If you are currently writing King Lear fiction, please take a moment and think about what I’ve said here. Why are you writing it? If it’s because that’s the “trend” right now, watch out. We’re getting close to saturation point.
If you are writing it because it’s on your heart, ask yourself what do you want your audience to take away from your story? Will they be encouraged to face the struggles in their own life? Or will they be caught in a mental morass of despair? Adjust your story accordingly to what you want them to have, Scribes. And as always:
Encourage one another.