I’ll be the first to admit I tend to lean toward uncomplicated, happy romances by default. Like bacon and cheese, such books make up the majority of my dietary preferences, literarily speaking. However, these aren’t the books I savor. They aren’t the ones to win awards and acclaim and get talked about nonstop.
I could be way off base, but it seems to me those spaces in our hearts tend to be reserved for the tragic tales. Now, since we here at Inspy Romance focus on CCR, we’ll stick to that genre, which means certain rules apply to our tragedies. They still require romantic love that ends happily and threads of faith (whether overt or subtle) that lead to characters overcoming whatever tragedy or trauma stands in the way of that happy romantic ending.
Now that the parameters are in place, let’s talk about why we love sad stories. We could get technical and talk about catharsis and endorphins and bio-chemical responses, but that might bore you to tears. Instead, let’s talk about it purely from a human experience standpoint.
As readers, we all know how books make us feel things, how reading makes us more empathetic. There’s no avoiding tragedy as part of the human experience. We all experience it on some level at some point in our lives. Considering we were created for connection, it makes sense that reading others’ experiences builds that connection as it allows us to see through someone else’s point of view.
Why am I thinking about all of this?
A few reasons. If you’re part of my email list, you’ll know we’ve faced several losses recently both in my family and in the reading community (including the heartbreaking loss of fellow author and former IR blogger Marion Ueckermann). I also read a few posts recently comparing people’s reading tastes pre-covid, height of covid, to now. It’s been interesting to see how many chose primarily comedies versus how many actually preferred tragic stories. I read one person’s comment that she walked away from tragic stories, specifically romances with an HEA, with a fresh outlook and appreciation for life.
What do you think? Do you ever go through phases where you just need to read something sad? Do you still want the tale to end happily?
I’m curious about your answers, truly!
Last week I reread one of my novellas from last year, This and Every Christmas, (which I’ll be releasing individually here in a couple of months) in preparation for writing its follow-on book for this year’s Christmas Lights Collection. I set out to write a story that was light and happy and Hallmark worthy, but as it progressed, I was hit with loss after loss for my poor hero. I never would’ve imagined readers would connect with a story in which three key people in his life die within the span of a few chapters, yet I’ve been hearing over and over again it’s one of their favorites. (You can’t see my shoulders shrugging, but trust me, they are.) It made me wonder.
And then there’s a major tragedy that sets the foundation for my entire novella Braver With You in the upcoming Save the Date collection. I had no idea when I started writing Ashlyn and Conrad’s childhood sweethearts story that such heartache would be the basis of not only her backstory, but his! I won’t spoil the details (though I do hope you’ll pre-order your copy of the collection for only 99¢ and then leave us a review with your thoughts) but writing the trauma she experienced as a little girl and understanding how it impacted every significant person in her life was eye-opening for me as a writer.
Life is hard, loss even harder. Perhaps that’s why we connect so well to characters who’ve faced things we have or worse. Maybe it’s finding hope for ourselves in the hard times, even when our only example of coming out the other side is a fictional character. I’m not exactly sure, but it’s definitely worth spending some time contemplating.
So I’ll let you contemplate, then you can leave a comment below to share about whether or not you connect best to characters who’ve faced tragedy or trauma and why you think that might be. I’d love to read your responses to my above questions. And then just to lighten things up, I’ll choose one random commenter to receive an advance review e-copy of Braver With You OR This and Every Christmas, winner’s choice. Also, if you have any great book suggestions for CCR titles in which characters face and overcome tragedy, I’ll give you an extra entry into the giveaway!
Until next time, happy reading (or not)!