Monday, May 19, 2014

To Angst or Not to Angst? It's All about B.A.L.A.N.C.E.


My daughter ran through the house the other day, dangling a stuffed toy in the air with the dog trailing behind her jumping. Giggles and barking easily blended as I watched them play keep-away.

Immediately the concept of writing craft came to mind. Why you ask would that spur an analogy? Well, I love to read books across all genre’s, but one thing is consistent with them all – the angst. The right amount will keep the reader going and interested in the book.

Admit it, we’ve all read the books (or have begun to read and then got frustrated and quit) where the heroine and hero are back and forth constantly. Bickering like a bunch of kids that are truly annoyed with each other. That type of behavior does not necessarily build a good lasting relationship. A certain amount of flirting/sparring is expected because that’s what we do in real life, but then there’s overkill. Let the reader get what they anticipate somewhere along the way otherwise frustration sets in.

Too much and the reader looses interest. Too little and the game is easily won. Either way, the reader looses interest. Balance is hard to find.

Books for me are an escape to another world for a short period of time. The book itself doesn’t matter as long as it is well written with a happy ending, which is easier said than done. The craft of storytelling is everything. Some readers have the perfect life looking to escape nothing. Some readers are in the midst of conquering cancer and need to read that somewhere life is exciting. This is where my great love of reading began, sitting in the oncologist chair with tubes connected to a pouch of chemicals designed to kill the cancer.

For hours, I could transport myself to the 17th or 18th Century and be a fair maid captured by a handsome pirate. Or I could be a college student rescued from certain death by the vampire of my dreams. Regardless, the result was the same in the end. Whatever the story was, it allowed me to endure the pain and left me with a happy feeling in my soul that the world around me was all right.


Because of my journey, I was inspired to write and hope to have a book published some day. It’s a goal, a purpose to live, and a reason to inspire the next person that might fill the same oncologist chair. My point of all this is to remind the masses that drama for the sake of drama is not entertainment but annoyance. However, the right amount of angst will have your reader hooked ‘till the end. No matter what the circumstances, romance readers want that happy feeling at the end of the story.

What about you? Do you want the happy ever after (HEA), happy for now (HFN), or do you want the hook that leaves you dangling until the follow-on book?

7 comments:

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Ha...the photo got me over in a snap.

I like the important things tied in a bow...with lots of teasers still on the wind.

Cari Hislop said...

I totally agree! Too much angst is annoying and unrealistic. It feels like torture! Another thing I loathe is characters who are unbelievably stupid or forced to do stupid things (their stupidity providing obvious plot devices). Normally it's a dumb heroine (heaven forbid the supposed intelligent female can't just use her brain and stay safe - she has to run towards danger like a moth to a flame), but the other day I read one where it was the hero who made me actually scream in irritation. It was such a shame because he was a great character. I finished the book feeling so disappointed. No happy ending can make up for wanting to hit either main character on the head!!!

Aidee Ladnier said...

Without the trials and tribulations (angst), our characters can't earn their happily ever after. Great post, Philisha! I definitely want the happily ever after.

Ali Hubbard said...

Great post!

I agree with R. Mac Wheeler. Resolve the most important points. Hint at the rest...

But a cliffhanger won't NORMALLY turn me away from a good read. It may turn me away from an average read...

Carla Swafford said...

The HEA or HFN. I get rather pissed when they leave it on a hook. Thus I will not real serials. If I hear that one turns out to be great and wonderful, I'll wait until they're finished.

Louisa Cornell said...

I am all for instant gratification! I need my HEA fix! I I hate books that end on a cliff hanger. Seems as if many do since Fifty Shades.

And I LOVE angst and tribulations so long as they are believable and intrinsic to the plot.

Drama for drama's sake bores me to tears!

Kerry Freeman said...

I come from a fandom background, and we were all about the angst. The HEA could wait until the last chapter as long as everything was as angsty as possible up to that point.

But in my regular reading, I don't generally go for non-stop angst. I think life involves some angst, but there's got to be some humor and happiness mixed in there to keep sane. And of course a HEA at the end! :) That's how I try to write my books, too.