I have been reading like a writer lately. In my current W.I.P., I am nearing the end. I know something horrible is coming. I know what it is. I have been dreading writing it. It will be very emotional for me. I know I need to write this part of the book, yet it's difficult.
One of the questions I've been thinking about is how much tragedy can a teen reader take? An agent wanted me to consider the fact that I have tragedy at the beginning and the end of my book. My first response is--tragedy happens in real life. I want to show a character who rises up from unspeakable tragedies. This agent wasn't telling me NOT to write this book, but merely wanted me to consider was I writing two stories or one? It was a valid point.
Unfortunately, multiple tragedies can happen in real life to real teens. It's horrible, but it happens. I don't want to skirt around tragedy or give my protagonist an unrealistic situation.
Over the weekend, I read a YA novel with incredible emotional punch. In Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Mia's family is in a car accident. She is close to death. She has to decide if she should hang on and try to live or if she should slip quietly from this earth. I don't want to give away all of the reasons she gives to stay or to die. Those heart-wrenching reasons are the very fabric of this story.
It made me think of why we read in the first place. We read because we want to feel something. We may want to laugh, cry, escape, or be touched. But in all cases, we want to be moved.
Forman's novel is gut-wrenching and emotional. It will make you cry. But I didn't feel teased or as though she'd played with my emotions. Mia goes through a life or death decision. She lives through something I pray I never do.
When I read this book like a writer, it gave me a better understanding of how deeply I can cut to an emotional core. I don't want to taunt my readers' emotions, but I want them to feel, even if it's a tragedy. But more than anything I want them to have hope.