Telling the Hard Stories

When I think about stories to write, it is easy to think of the big stories. People with destinies. Even when I think of people on the verge of death I imagine them getting to do all the things they ever wanted to do. That isn’t how life works. In some ways that is easy to write. The hard things are people who aren’t superb and who don’t necessarily get to do amazing things. I always want to write about people who are more like me, but that is hard to do when you think you are boring. When I do write about people like me it is often about them being swept away into a more exciting world.

I used to think about this and think that telling the hard stories required writing realism. Recently I was rereading a project I would like to get back to working on. I realized that at the time I had no clue how to write grief. Now I know grief all too well, but writing it feels all the more daunting. Reading those old scenes feel flat to me now, but I don’t know how to fix them. Do people reading a fantasy novel want to read real grief? Is there a sweet spot in between that I can hit? Typically death is unavoidable in an adventure of any kind, so grief lives there too.

I had already started this post when I read Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow which has some good moments of characters relating over their trauma. Really though when thinking about writing the hard topics I always think about The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. (Yep, no link I last read this before the blog though it is high on my re-read list.) It is a fantasy novel but the word often used to describe it in my head is “gritty”. It always stands out in a mind as a book that took the trauma seriously but wasn’t a book about the trauma. I think that is the sort of balance that I aspire too someday. I want to tell the stories of people with grief and with trauma without making that all they are. We are more than those things but they are part of us.

Do you have a story you wish you could tell properly?

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