Hello, Blogosphere, and good morning.
So I, like countless other teenagers, have read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. I’m a longtime fan of Mr. Green, and have read a number of other books of his, but there’s something unique about the way TFIOS is done.
Namely, the infinite hordes I have witnessed of crying readers, releasing pleas to the Universe for Mr. Green to stop being so evil.
Now, having read the other books, this is not something unique to his writing. He does it rather often, actually, Looking For Alaska being the most striking example.
However, I’m not going to focus on Mr. Green today. He’s just a case study.
But anyway…I’ve been thinking a bit about why exactly everyone’s crying about him in particular. While TFIOS is an intensely emotional novel…so are thousands of others, some even more widely read than this.
I’ve been concentrating on this a lot, lately, and I think I’ve developed a pretty decent theory.
The thing setting “emotionally potent” authors apart from “evil” authors is the Guarantee of Eventual Triumph.
What I mean by this is actually pretty simple, at its core.
Essentially, there are two kinds of emotional heartbreak: That which can be overcome, and that which cannot.
The first one is a hallmark of emotionally jarring stories everywhere. The hero gets a little bit too drunk and his girlfriend leaves him after he’s woken up sober. The District Twelve girl who just wants to support her family gets chosen to represent her people in a futuristic-archaic battle to the death. The two Afghani women suffer blow after blow in the heart of Kabul together, clinging to each other for survival even as they push each other together (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini RIGHT NOW)
But the second…that’s what does the real heartbreak.
The totalitarian leaders burn every book they can find–and they find ALL OF THEM.
The young protagonist gets adopted, and suddenly Birth Mama vanishes without saying goodbye.
A teenaged girl, destined for early death herself, watches her love waste away in front of her and, ultimately, beat her to the grave.
Those are the ones that tear us apart.
Because of that Guarantee of Eventual Triumph.
It’s not there.
The drunk guy without the girlfriend…he’ll get over her. Who knows, they might even get back together. The girl from District Twelve can survive, if she fights harder than the rest. The Afghani women, believe it or not, still have a chance, in each other, even as their city crumbles around them.
The Guarantee is there.
It’s a guarantee that there’s still potential for a happy ending. There will be another side. The grass is greener somewhere. Those are what makes a novel emotionally potent–the fact that tragedy strikes, and there is a journey that must be traversed before anything can change. But things can change. Things WILL change. That promise is there, unspoken. There will be resolution.
And then, there are the Evil Authors.
The books are gone. All the history and knowledge of the human race has been expunged, save for a group of recluses muttering lines to themselves in the woods.
Mama…she’s been planning this the whole time. Once she got rid of that kid, she didn’t have any intention to visit for the holidays.
And the boy’s gone. Her dream boy is dead. And he’s never coming back. Even worse, she’ll be dead soon too.
The guarantee isn’t there.
There. Is. No. Hope.
Things, in those stories, won’t get better. They won’t turn around. The underdog Will. Not. Triumph.
After all, how could they?
That’s what makes some writers evil. They don’t give that hope.
They make us remember, relive in excruciating detail, everything in our own lives that’s become irrevocable. Force us to realize, no, we will never reconcile. And project that onto characters who we have come to love as our own.
If you ask me, those authors aren’t evil.
They’re the most important writers we have.
And, as painful as it is to look, we as authors and as humans cannot afford to avert our eyes.
May you remain existential,