Monday, March 20, 2017

Story Stoppers: To Die or Not to Die?

That is the question.
Anne here.
So, get your coffee or tea and let's talk story stoppers. What makes you stop reading a book, or stop watching a movie? I'm going more for emotion, craft, form, or writing style stoppers than genre. I read a very wonderful article this week about death and dying and it made me wonder. Since death is such a universal experience, it can really strike a visceral cord. (article link--warning: get tissues! I know you love me--now let me die) The article isn't fiction, but I wondered: if a story character gets killed off by the author, will that make you stop reading? Because death is so real, and we all have our own experiences with it--both resolved and unresolved. You have Jaime's stories, where death and dead bodies are a suspense requisite, but my stories are on the sweet romantic side--but that doesn't mean I avoid writing about death. Do you avoid books with death? For instance, I've watched Old Yeller, and Where the Red Fern Grows, where the main dog character dies, but I could only watch them once. Or like, Schindler's List and Titanic--both must see films, but I couldn't see them more than once. Too heart-wrenching, you know? Once I learned  <SPOILER ALERT> the dog dies in Marley & Me, it was a stopper for me, didn't see it. If you learn the main character gets killed off, will you still read the story?

What other things might be a stopper for you? Jaime and I are pretty much die-hard third person writers and readers. I'll read a first person story, but I don't prefer it. I'm always disappointed if I get a great looking book, if I've been hooked by the cover and the back blurb--and get home to find it's first person. I might drop it immediately unless there are rave reviews. Especially if it's historical. I don't mind it so much if it's a contemporary. But somehow it feels like a historical story should be in third person since it has already occurred in the past. Any first person readers out there? Do you have some examples of your favorites?

What are other stoppers? Subtitles on a movie? Can you do that if it's worth it? I think that last English subtitled movie I saw was 1987's Babette's Feast. I only watched it because it's one of my sister-in-law's favorites, but it was good.

Or darker, deeper plots and character arcs? Do you prefer a challenge, something to ponder? Or more the light hearted read with a sweet romance where no one dies? Do you stick only to light romantic comedy? Many people read to escape and be entertained. Fiction writers are told to write realistic characters with universal themes. So it makes it a challenge of craft and voice to write realistically, touching on the human experience, yet transporting the reader from their real world while still connecting.

Above all, I can keep reading a good story, even if a beloved character dies--if I feel the author is showing me hope. For me, I think hope is that essential piece that no matter how dark or real the story, if the reader can join in the sense of hope for overcoming life's challenges, it's worth it. I mean L.M. Montgomery let Matthew Cuthbert die in the Anne series, but I'd watch that again and again because the story is so delightful and full of hope!

For fun, let's go around the coffee table and vote:
Hands up if you prefer strictly fun, light hearted, romantic or comedy.
Thumbs down if you would put down a book (or be tempted) if someone dear dies, or too dark?
Coffee mug raised if you would read either one, as long as it's relatable and brings you hope?

The winner of Susan Meissner's copy of A Bridge Across the Ocean is Joyce Heffron! Look for an email, Joyce! :)
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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  1. When John Wayne was killed in The Cowboys that was devastating for me. As a teenager I saw Love Story in the theatre and was appalled by the language but compared to today's movies was actually pretty mild but it shocked me at the time.
    As far as books I will trudge through one once I start it. I never not finish one. Bad language or blatant sex will keep me from not reading that author again.

    1. Gail, my mother trudges through books faithfully. I think you might glean a lot more that you may have missed in lot of cases.

  2. Well, I love memoir so I like first person there. In fiction, I'm not sure if I ever really noticed whether what I liked/disliked about a book was based on first/third person perspective. I'll have to remember noticing on my fiction reads. I've only read one title in the recent memory where the hero dies at the end of a series. It was a little jarring, in some ways. I'm not sure how I felt about it. It made the point of the writer, I guess, about ultimate sacrifice. I don't usually pick subtitled movies but I LOVE Babette's Feast so???

    Probably coffee mug raised for me! I'll read a wide range of things.

    1. Great, Amy! Mugs hoisted! I have a friend who loves memoirs. I'd love to hear your favorites! And, yay, I'll tell my SIL there's another Babette's Feast fan out there!

    2. My absolute favorite memoir writer is Gladys Taber. She wrote mainly about daily life on her New England farm, Stillmeadow. I find it beautiful and thoughtful. The only thing is she had MANY dogs, where as I have MANY children. ;)


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