Happy vs Good

I have two friends who are constantly arguing with each other. They’re roommates, and they have different tastes in the area of entertainment and media. This arguing is usually on the subject of movies (specifically Marvel, DC, and Star Wars), and often comes back to what I’ve seen to be the core of their differences.

How happy should a story be? And if its not happy, can it still be a good story?

There is an interesting phenomena that happens when one goes to write. An author will often find a setting, and then fill that setting with people he intends to let an audience care about. Even if he has a fairly happy tale to tell, he may often wonder the different ways he could push his characters, even to the brink of death.

The more innocent and lovely the character, the greater the impact of his or her death on your reader. And that’s what you want to achieve in a story as an author. Impact. So you go ahead and get the most gut wrenching death scenes ready for your once happy tale.

This is when you look up and realize that your probably making your audience miserable. Reading is an experience, and you must be respectful to anyone and everyone who decides to give time to your writing. Making them miserable isn’t always the best option to follow this up.

But is there a time when happy isn’t good? And is there a time when good isn’t happy? I thought over these questions for a while, having my new story in mind. Could I make an unhappy story, but have it still be good?

Here is what I decided.

Conflict is key when writing a story. If there’s nothing to give out risk or change, then it will fall flat. However, if there is too much conflict, your reader may become lost or overwhelmed. You have to find a balance of risk and hope, which is the perfect recipe for a ‘good’ story.

Life isn’t always happy either. But contrary to the American belief, that doesn’t always mean it can’t be good. God will often use closed doors and strife to bring you closer to Him, and that is very good.

The story I am writing is not a happy one. Characters fall into hard and fatal circumstances, and the story is meant to give you an anxious, defeatist feeling. Does that make it bad? I don’t think so, because of how it ends.

As an author, that is the best and most important promise I can give. If you read, and spend time on my writing all the way to the end of the fifth page, you just might smile. The journey to that smile may seem long, and perhaps there will be times when you don’t expect to smile ever again in the context of the story, but thus is life. We face disappointment and challenge time after time, but we live with a promise.

At the end of all things, creation will be made anew and we will be made perfect. The journey there isn’t going to often be happy, but at the end, we will experience eternal joy. And if that doesn’t make a story good, then I truly don’t know what does.


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