I Need A Large Dose Of Happy

I’d read it.

I wrote previously on how I’m super picky about what I read in terms of tense, perspective, etc. and it’s worth mentioning that, compared to some other things, those are just minor preferences. It’s a wonder I read anything at all, considering my criteria for a new book or movie.

When it comes down to it, I think my biggest thing is that a book has to be relatively happy. Not just the ending, either. I have a hard time reading books full of darkness and bad news. Emotional torment is one of the things I really have a hard time dealing with. So when I read books that are just full of negativity on every page, it gets me feeling the same way, and when I spend my leisure time reading, that’s not exactly how I want to feel.

I recognize that a lot of people are talented writers, and that they can do things like write sorrowful or sad or angsty scenes, but I just don’t like that. (And don’t anyone say, ‘Well that’s not realistic!’ Well, neither are dragons or Quidditch matches.) Sure, give me conflict, give me a plot, give me something that everyone is working towards, but if there’s too much of it, I just don’t like it.

There could be a few things for this. For one, as very much the empathetic introvert, when stuff starts going down, I feel like it’s happening to me. Not cool. The second reason is that lingering effects of clinical depression still swim just below the surface, and reading certain things really, really get to me. I’m reading books for fun, it shouldn’t feel like that! I can handle some things, sure, but the darker the book, the more satisfying the resolution has to be. For a book full of death and doom and depression, it has to really work hard to make up for it, and some just… don’t.

This is kind of an unfortunate preference. There are some great books out there that I’ve tried my hardest to appreciate. I wanted so badly to like these books, but I just couldn’t. I had such a negative reaction to the way things were written that I was relieved to get rid of the book, and that sucks. It really does. Many people can read these things and not be all too bothered, and I miss a lot of cool stuff that way. It actually really bothers me when I end up disliking a book that I’ve put so much effort into liking.

I’m the same way with books I write. I can’t torture my characters too much. Or if I do, there are certain methods that are off limits. A few critics have said that my works are too positive, or don’t have enough fighting and drama and whatnot. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. Just because my characters don’t come from Angsty Middle School in Passive Aggressive, CA doesn’t mean it’s necessarily lacking. Or so I feel. But I do acknowledge that sometimes I just don’t have as much doom and gloom as I should. Because it’s hard to write.

I’ve never been the same way with movies, though. I think it’s due to the fact that movies last a few hours at most, whereas with a good book I’ll be sitting there for half a day, or to the other extreme, years (with series that aren’t complete). My emotional investment in books is far beyond that of anything else, so I’m extremely picky. Either way there are things that I just can’t handle, and too much torture/sadness is one of them.

Is there anyone else out there like me, people who thrive on satisfying stuff? (Not necessarily unrealistically happy, just satisfyingly happy. Or are you the type who can read just about anything and it doesn’t get to you too much?

Also, hooray for finally posting again! Life has me way too busy to even reply to comments lately. I swear I’m not ignoring you.


17 thoughts on “I Need A Large Dose Of Happy

  1. Interesting. I don’t mind if characters go through a lot in books, though I don’t like reading about torture itself (or watching it). And I don’t hold some stuff in my head: I tried to write very black horror, thinking I’d read a lot of that, I knew what was going on, but when it came to it, I didn’t have enough of that inside my head. And I decided I didn’t really want it there.
    I read the Larssen trilogy and enjoyed it, but when I saw the film, couldn’t watch some of the scenes. I had recorded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so was able to fast forward through some of it. If that makes me a bit pathetic, can’t help it.
    My husband doesn’t like some of the stuff I write, because he likes a happy ending. I don’t mind things being a little more ambiguous. And I loathe books like One Day (SPOILER ALERT) where you get nearly to the end and the main character is killed off. I threw that book across the room at that point, furious. I don’t want to spend hours getting to know someone and have them gratuitously slain.

      1. I did buy it – and I was so angry with it, I can’t tell you!
        Put it into the Oxfam bookshop. Should have added a warning notice on the front!

  2. I’m an empath as well. It took me a long time to realize it though and it was after years of reading Stephen King and other dark, horror writers. When I finally made the connection, I had to go so far as to stop reading newspapers or watching the daily news; I’ve had to avoid many a good movie and settle now for my light-on-plot action films. I’m still drawn to Stephen King and his cohorts in horror and I will occasionally be wrangled into seeing a movie with substance (translation, dark and depressing mood) but I now have tools in place to combat the resulting downward spiral in my own feelings / emotions. It’s difficult to get other people to understand.

    I wrote all of that to say, yes, there are others out here like you who prefer a little (or a lot) of happy in the things they do for fun. :-).

    1. Tools like what? =D? And I know your feeling about the news, but as a poli sci student and someone who has to keep up to date over all, I can’t look away. Bah. Maybe the craptascity of the world is what keeps my fiction choices so happy.

  3. Daniel, I’m in your camp. I get so wrapped up in what I’m reading, and I transfer so many of the emotions to myself … well, I need the book to be more upbeat than not. I don’t enjoy being a crying, blubbering mess as I read. I never go to the movies without first checking to see that I have plenty of tissues in my purse. I even cry at happy scenes (like weddings), but at least I’m happy. Sympathy and empathy – oh yeah – I figured out the difference a long time ago. It’s hard to deal with empathy at times.

  4. I enjoy the stories that totally mess up my favourite characters. If it gets to the point where I am sobbing, screaming “No! How could this happen!?” and start blaming events and even that same character’s own stupidity, it means I love them enough to care. It takes that sort of trauma to realize that I actually do love the story, that it’s now a part of me.
    Mind you, if the characters do absolutely nothing to overcome their strife and the whole thing wallows in its own negativity, then I have the issue. I have nothing to gain from such a story, not even feeling. Misery and gross torture scenes can drive a story forward, so I accept them when they arise, so long as they’re actively being overcome. Even if it ends with “and they all died except for the one who lived as amputee slaves,” it can still be satisfying.

    1. Ha! Yeah, I think that might be a biiiiiiiit too much for me. >_> But I like your point. I like to see characters fighting to overcome things like that rather than just wallowing in it all the time. I could go on a middle schooler’s Facebook to read that.

  5. I know what you mean. This is typically why I don’t read literary fiction; most of the conflict is internal and seems to go on forever. The internal story becomes such a drag because it fills most of the book.
    There’s a saying that a great comedian is also a great dramatic actor. With fiction, I like to think one has to be funny just as often in order for the drama to stand out as significant.

    1. I do like a good contrast. I’ve had some people tell me that they don’t like writing that’s too light-hearted or has too much humor, but I love it. I think that you can still adequately portray darkness and drama without sacrificing humor or something positive.

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