Teenage Angst Bullshit

Every serious story has a certain level of drama. Unwed mother leaves her baby in a basket on the church doorstep. Boy steps aside so the girl of his dreams can marry his rich rival, who can give her the life she deserves. Woman watches helplessly as her husband slowly dies from a terrible disease. Bring a box of tissues. You’re going to cry.

There’s a right way to evoke your readers’ emotions–and a wrong way.

Angela’s Ashes comes to mind. The author presents the tale of his miserable childhood matter of factly and allows his readers to draw their own conclusions. We pity him all the more because he doesn’t ask for our pity, he doesn’t court it.

On the other end of the spectrum is Nicholas Sparks, who has–what–a dozen novels out there. All bestsellers. The dialogue in his novels is designed to evoke endless tears, and none of it is anywhere close to what people would really say to one another. It’s radio drama. “Oh, June, if I had known how much you would come to mean to me this summer, I never would have given April my word that I would marry her in the autumn. But I know somehow–some way–we will be together in the end.”

Try the Frank McCourt method of writing drama. Show the mother leaving the baby on the step. Show the boy purposely hurting his girl’s feelings, so she will run to his rival. Show the woman struggling to keep her faith in God, while she watches her husband die. No flowery speeches, no tantrums or waterworks. The facts. Simply the facts. Let your readers draw their own conclusions.

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