I have a straight-forward style of storytelling, where I deliver what I promise with no gotchya’s or plot twists. When I was posting stories on Reddit, I’d occasionally get comments from people who were relieved that I ended on a happy note, instead of abruptly implementing, “rocks fall, everyone dies” for dramatic impact.
I confess that my tastes in fiction are quite old school, so I can’t speak with 100% certainty of what’s being done currently, but from what I saw others posting on Reddit, and what I know of popular series like Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, a lot of writers are obsessed with killing characters, plot twist betrayals, and numerous cheap ploys that tug on emotions.
Sometimes I wonder, at what point does it become emotional abuse?
Bear with me a moment here.
As a writer, I have an ego — my decision to make my stories available for other people to read is testimony of that. I’ve spent years practicing, studying, and philosophizing, and while I don’t think that I’ve achieved perfection, I do believe that I’m better than average.
But I don’t think that I command any sort of god-like control over anyone who chooses to read my fiction.
I am not out to deliberately manipulate your emotions.
My goal is to tell a story.
The thing is, if you were in a relationship with someone who was deliberately keeping you off-balance, utilizing your emotional attachments to punish you, and dangling good promises with no intention of delivering, that would be a horrendously abusive and toxic relationship, right?
Well, guess what?
Writer – reader counts as a relationship.
Readers have the power to put down a book at any point for any reason, so on some level Game of Thrones fans are agreeing to be subjected to an endless parade of death, etc. However, the frequent use of manipulative tactics combined with persistent anxiety, makes me think that readers might not realize they have that power.
We don’t have to accept being jerked around so much we can’t enjoy a happy light-hearted story without panicking that something bad is going to happen.
There is a point where enough is enough.