Terrouge E-zine Archives
Rystan's Writing Recommendations
Hello, and welcome to the first installment of Rystan's Writing Recommendations! In this monthly column, I'll be answering questions from you, the readers. From novels to poems, roleplays to fanfics, if you've got questions, I've got answers.
Our very first question comes from Aleisou Swiftpounce. Aleisou asks:
In RPing, what do you think is the best way to handle sadness and depression without seeming too angsty?
This is an excellent question and something that aspiring writers tend to have trouble with. Sadness in writing is quite a bit like chocolate. It's very tasty in small quantities, but if you're whacked in the face with several pounds of it, you're going to be pretty disgruntled. What writers should try to achieve in these situations is a tasteful show of emotion, not an overblown "angst fest," as I like to call it. That said, let us begin.
First and foremost, never actually use the word "angst" to describe a character who is sad or depressed. If you're writing some sort of parody or comic piece of fiction, then go for it, but I implore you: do not use the word "angst" in a serious piece of writing. From experience, I can say that it makes the writer sound terribly silly. I used it in my very first post in Questors Bold II and received flack for it. Save yourself this embarrassment, and strike this cursed word from your writing vocabulary!
Secondly, you should have a reason for writing sadness or depression. And it should be a good and believable reason. For example, it would be silly to launch into melodrama if a female character breaks her freshly manicured nail. A less than perfect example, I know, so allow me to elaborate. Some general causes of and good reasons for sadness, depression, and (dare I say it?) angst are as follows:
This one is rather self-explanatory. The death of a family member, significant other, friend, or pet is certainly a catalyst for sadness.
Teenage An gst
Most teenagers have felt this at some point or another. The feeling that they are trapped in life by the rules their parents set and by school. A yearning to be on their own, to be free, to fall in love. This category can encompass a wide variety of things.
Depending on the situation, a lonely character could feel sadness brought on by fear, exclusion, ridiculing, the lack of a significant other, the lack of any friends in general, and so on.
Now, here is a popular cause of angst in the fantasy genre. Oftentimes, a character suddenly gains great power, whether it be magical, political, or something else, and it is generally a power that was unexpected and not something the character ever wanted to have. The character is then forced to accept a new destiny because of this power, a power that will likely also elevate the character to a status of leadership. There are all sorts of possibilities for angst here.
University students will understand this category all too well. Ever have everything just pile up on you, all at once? And more problems just keep coming? And finally, your nerves get so frayed, they just snap... Yes. This is breakdown angst. It is a nervous breakdown, essentially.
By no means are the categories I listed here the only good reasons for grief, but they will provide a good basis on which to judge your own characters situations.
Finally, speaking of one's own characters, I come to my final and most important point: reactions to sadness vary between different character types and personalities. Not every character will express grief in the same way. For example, using characters from the RP community Monster Hunters: my character, Sparrow Vaniterra, expresses her sadness by singing or playing her violin. She also tends to wear her heart on her sleeve, so she isn't averse to outright bawling. Fidget's charact er, Alissya Stregaregale, remains dignified and expresses sadness by writing. Linny's character, Tealinne Demsey, goes out and gets drunk. It all depends on your character's personality.
To use an example from Redwall, consider the book Martin the Warrior. When Rose is killed near the end, how does Martin react? Does he burst into tears on the battlefield? No. Martin's reaction to Rose's death comes in two phases. Martin first becomes enraged and destroys Badrang. Later, he retreats within himself, refusing to even speak of it, and spends vast amounts of time out in the forest. We learn from Polleekin that Martin weeps when he is alone. When Martin finally leaves the coast, he never again speaks of his former/past life.
So before you start writing sadness, think very carefully about your character's personality. How will they react? Is their reaction believable for their personality? Is their reaction believable in general?
My other question for this month's segment comes from Racceberyl. Racc asks:
Which, at least in your opinion, is better? Editing as you write or just writing as much as possible and then going back and editing your work? Does it even matter?
In all honesty, it doesn't really matter. It depends on what you, as a writer, prefer. It even depends on the mood you're in at the time. If you feel like you're on a roll, and ideas just keep coming to you, it is probably better just to keep writing. You can always go back and edit later. Or, if you're in a picky mood and are determined to have everything just right, it may be better to edit as you write. Personally, if I'm writing and particular areas of the story just aren't sitting well with me, I will keep editing and re-editing until it feels right to me, and then I'll move on. One way or the other, the method you choose while writing will not likely change the quality of your work in the end. Just remember that a story is never set in stone, and you can al ways go back and edit it, even if you consider it "finished."
This wraps up the first installment of Rystan's Writing Recommendations! If you have questions about writing or RPing that you'd like answered, send a personal message to Rystan on the Terrouge Forums, or email them to me at email@example.com! Your questions are greatly appreciated!