When the Writing Gets Angsty

Jamie Fessenden just posted about how he’s having a tough time writing an emotionally difficult but essential scene. And I know just how he feels, because I just gave my MC an unexpected case of the flu, I think partly to delay getting to one of those hard scenes. There have been a couple of books where writing particular scenes just about devastated me (I’m talking about you, Tin Box and Motel. Pool.). But we still have to write them.

And yes, I know even as I’m writing that most of the characters will eventually get a happy ending. Readers realize that too, because these are romance books, after all. But we’ve come to love these guys over the course of the story, and their pain feels real.

So now I’m wondering. If you’re a writer, do you share this problem? How do you face it? If you’re a reader, how do you feel about reading these scenes? Do you have a strategy for getting through them (besides keeping Kleenex close at hand)?

And now’s where we can all put on our psychology hats. Why do we like the angst? We must, because even though it hurts, I keep writing it (as do many of my favorite authors), and we keep reading it.

And finally, what are some of the difficult scenes–in any book–that have touched you the most?

It’s the holidays, so to encourage you to be chatty, I’m doing a little giveaway.

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6 thoughts on “When the Writing Gets Angsty

  1. I already have Bone Dry (loved the whole Bones series!), but I’m not a huge fan of angst. I most often just skim that section of books. Real life gives me enough pain I don’t enjoy it in fiction.

  2. I enjoy reading angst because I like to feel something when I’m reading – anger, pain etc. I love a story that gives me a good cry before everything turns out all right in the end. I get into the characters’ heads when I read and try to feel what they’re going through.

    As for writing – I try to put myself in the characters’ shoes and put their feelings into words. I’ve recently written a very angsty scene where my main character escapes an abusive relationship. I wrote the scenes prior to and during him leaving his tormentor based on my own experience which left me pretty wrung out but at the same time was cathartic. I feel that the scene came out well, but if I’m writing something like that which I haven’t experienced, I take a few minutes to imagine it happening to me to see how it would make me feel. I think this helps write a realistic angsty scene.

  3. I don’t have a problem with angst, but when it takes over the story that annoys me. Kim mentioned that we like angst and that I believe that is true because if not, well then the story can be to sweet or fluff and not realistic. But as I mentioned, too much is just as bad because to me, it comes off as whining. Either way I prefer the type of angst that makes sense, or at least can be argued to justification. I have read stories where the main problem is a basic lack of communication and a simple talk could have cleared everything up. So even if it is one character or more, whatever their issues are should at least touch on something that someone, somewhere can relate to and not have them being angry just as a convenient plot device.

  4. Angst exists in romance novels to give us contrast. Without pain, the happy ending loses it’s punch. How much brighter is the light when we’ve been in the dark? I have trouble writing those scenes too – I’ve been known to put them off and spend my writing time watching cat videos online instead when one of those is looming but I think they’re necessary. I agree with Thad though – I prefer stories where the angst has more to it than just a miscommunication.

    My all time favorite angst is in VM Waitt’s Chase the Storm. The pain those characters feel is so real and so insurmountable that I cry every time I read it. The HEA that comes after it is way too short but I read it repeatedly, because that light shines so bright after the dark. I find myself extending that happy scene in my head, fan fiction style, to enjoy it longer. Come the day I can make my readers care that much, and celebrate that much at the end, I’ll call myself a writer.

  5. Generally speaking, I don’t enjoy angsty bits in my romance. I read for entertainment; fluff and unrealistic situations are preferred, thank you very much. That said, I occasionally do enjoy some angst in my romance, but only when written by certain authors who I know A) will give me a HEA, B) won’t kill off the major characters, and C) have written other books I’ve loved.
    When trying a new author, I’ve been known the read the firdt chapter, then do a search for the MC’s names. If they show up alive in the last chapter, I finish the book. As long as they’re alive in the final chapter, I can deal with the rest and since I don’t care about spoilers, it works for me.

  6. Hmm, I’m not a HUGE fan of angst, although I do enjoy it at times. I enjoy it more when it’s an organic part of the story and not manufactured just because there needed to be some angst. And if the angst is completely overwhelming and the happy at the end isn’t satisfying? Then that’s a big nope for me.

    As for writing it, well, I have a playlist, and I put myself in the character’s shoes and try to feel what my character is feeling. And then I have to go write or read fluff.

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