Sad Songs

Tragedy is not only a literary and theatrical practice, but also constitutes an object of contemplation, which has served as an intellectual touchstone for many philosophers and artists. Tragic plots normally describe some aspect of the relationships between human suffering and right or wrong action, and writers describe it in the form of a fictional story. The hero must be close enough to us for a sense of kinship to develop, to make us aware of a common human destiny. The whole process that tragedy shows is one in which individuals plays their part; we cannot know how large the part is, but tragic writing must illustrate the idea that people somehow contribute to what happens.

Given Xena's rather dark past and all the tragic events that have occurred to Xena and Gabrielle there is a rich canon from which to draw. Not only do these tragic or angst-laden heroes overcome great odds, but they find a measure of comfort from the support they give each other. Both seek redemption by constantly rising above the circumstances of their lives. This is often paralleled in other stories, both of the uber and burgeoning 'original' genre providing a rich playing field for the exploration of human drama and the resulting consequences of choices and decisions. I have asked several authors to share their thoughts on the use of tragedy and how it can enlighten the drama that is life.

Joining us today are:

A. H. Ladis [The Burning Candle, Make a Wish]

DJWP [Lost Soul Walking]

Lois Hart [Coming Home, The Lion and The Lamb, Broken Homes]

Lela Kaunitz   [Kill Shot, Cradle and All]

Lariel [Deep Black Water, Goodbye Again, Killing Time, A Prayer for You, Shattered]]

Midgit [A Little Piece of Paradise,Ligara, Cold]

Morrig [Sacrament Series]

Pallas  [Ravages of the Spirit, Beyond and Forever, Unconquered, Mercy that Sadness Brings]

Poto [The Game, Out of Sarajevo]

Anne Reagin [Just Rewards, Someone's Justice]

Redhawk [Warlord Metal]

* Stories are in progress

EM: What prompted you to write tragedy or angst-laden stories with a lot of character conflict?

Midgit: I didn't really set out to write angst laden stories, I think it may just be a cheap shot on my part to get reader's interest. I love reading angst, as those who know me will tell you. But now I'm known for writing angst so I give folks what they are expecting. I don't think I'm ever likely to write a feel good story, though, saying that if characters overcome the angst and grow closer despite it, then that's feel good.

Lariel: The question almost makes it sound as though it was pre-planned on my part to write a 'tragedy' or 'angst-laden' story, and I'm not sure I am ever that premeditated. I don't think of my stories as being particularly tragic in the Greek sense of the word, but angst ridden...I suppose so.

I think it all boils down to what makes a story dramatic, what gives it an edge and what can draw a reader in the most. Sometimes with comedy, [it's] easy to remain a spectator, as you watch and laugh at/with the characters. But with a well crafted drama, you can get sucked in more if the characters are strong enough and there's enough there to identify with emotionally. I guess that's where using universal 'everyman/woman' themes and characters can help.

Lois: I never deliberately started out to do so, but as the story progressed, it became apparent that there simply could not be a happy ending for all the principals involved, even though I'm an avowed fan of 'happy endings'. When I was writing "Coming Home", I didn't start with a detailed blueprint of the story. I knew my starting point was my own life experiences, and I knew the ultimate destination I wanted to reach, but not every step of the journey to get there. Often as I wrote a chapter, the characters would surprise me with the directions they took. That actually added to the pleasure of writing, but I also struggled at times. Because some of these characters were based on actual people, putting them through hell on the screen had a disturbing resonance in real life. To do otherwise though, would have felt like cheating both the readers and myself.

Midgit: I guess I just like to see how the characters can overcome whatever is placed in their path. I like to get angry with them, feel sad for them and then, hopefully, happy for them. In "Cold", I wanted Rocky's past to be very painful. It had to be to force her onto the streets. I've never written about a taboo subject before, (i.e. child abuse), [but] I wanted to show how the love of someone could mend the fractured soul of another. But that past will come back to haunt them, and Rocky will fear she is never going to be free from it.

Lela: In most cases, that's what my characters wanted. Or I'm just venting (which tends to explain the angst). Or tragic and angsty has its own momentum, which is easier to follow than something [that is] lighter, or 'fluffier'Ö or snarkier, for that matter. And momentum is the only thing that gets you to the next page.

And I find myself wondering: if you don't have any character conflict, what exactly is it that you're writing?

Redhawk: [Well] I'm not entirely sure... Once the whole thing was over, I took a deep breath and asked myself, "Where the hell did THAT come from?" The angst-ridden character in "Warlord Metal" was inspired by a song of rape. I believe that the story took a logical progression once I put a female character into the position of writing the lyrics. It's one thing to hear of men singing or praising rape in all its power issues; it's quite another to hear the same thing from a woman. By creating Jordan Chizu, I was forced to bring into being a harsh individual that could have written the tune.

I think that Jordan's tragic circumstance created a vacuum within and around her. There were no interactions with people that were 'positive' as viewed by society. This included her dealings with Sonny. Jordan's self-hatred caused her to view her relationship with the younger, idealistic Sonny as corruption of purity. Despite this, her emotions subtly gave her away time and again, opening the way for Sonny to touch that part of Jordan deep inside. As their closeness grew, so did Jordan's addictions as she tried to counter balance. As is always the case, when you're walking a tightrope, sooner or later something's gotta give...

Pallas: [I agree] because conflict and angst is what makes life interesting. Any story that I've ever found memorable or thought provoking has been full of angst and conflict. It has [led] me to delve deeper into myself to find a common bond between the character and me. Relating to a character on a deep emotional level can be one of the biggest rewards in reading fiction.

Also, it is because I enjoy studying the psychological impacts of action and reaction on conflict and resolution that I have more often than not put my characters into very difficult situations and forced them to respond based on what is know of their inner spirit and fortitude. I began this trend with "Ravages of Spirit" where I crafted a love/friendship triangle between Xena, Gabrielle and Ephiny. Each had their own driving force and their own demons to exorcise. In the end they reacted to the situation based on their fortitude of character.

So I write tragedy and angst because it is the truest form of life. I've tried a few happy type stories, but they haven't felt as real to me.

Lariel: Most of the time it depends on my mood, and the particular message that I want to explore. I knew with "Shattered" for example that it was going to be a heavily dramatic piece, and that I really wanted to do something with Gabrielle's emotional reaction to her crucifixion. The emotional pull of "Last Night" just seemed to develop of its own accord and I found myself writing the character of Charlie almost instinctively - she certainly wasn't the person I set out to write. But character and conflict are what gives a piece its emotional heart, and they are the 2 areas that I always try and focus on when I'm writing a 'serious' story. I go back as I'm writing, and add 'layers' to a story, and they are usually layers which flesh out character, build tension and strengthen theme if there's one there.

Morrig: If there was a prompt, only my muse knows of it with any certainty, but I can take a few guesses at it. I live in NYC, where I was raised, and I tend to look at people and write their stories in my head without really knowing them. My muse creates their tragedies in my mind based on what I see; the look in their eyes, the posture they use, the subtle scowls and grimaces while they ignore everything that goes on around them.

On any given block there are at least two hundred people living, and believe it or not those blocks work the way small communities do, dramas and tragedies spread like wild fire. The boy whose mother's boyfriend went into a rage and smashed his skull against the side of the bath tub, killing him at the age of eight and then turning on his mother is one of my earliest memories.

But what I remember most is the way the kid was always smiling, though he was just a stick of human bones and hand-me-down rags. A kid I went to school and played stickball with, strangled a two-year-old, and was sentenced to life without parole by the age of 13. His mother never moved away and she was left behind to hold her head up while others whispered. Perhaps I'm the only one who can see the triumph in tragedy, and that may have been the prompt all along.

Anne: I realized that the amount of conflict in a plot must equal the strength and positive attributes of the characters involved. I prefer the participants in any story to exhibit qualities that are almost larger than life. It is a wishful habit of mine to create fictional characters who mirror what people could be and even should be. Consequently, in my mind women of strength, intelligence, compassion, beauty and integrity have a lot of qualities that should help them in overcoming adversity.

DJWP: "Lost Soul Walking" was written to explore two concepts - first and foremost, the concept of redemption and secondly, the fate of Xena in the modern world.

It is my contention that if Xena, the warlord, lived today, she would have ended up in jail. Perhaps not as a serial killer, but certainly as a mass murderer, rather than on the road to redeeming herself by fighting for the greater good. In today's society, Xena would not have been given the chance; she would be locked up, tied down, and on death row.

More importantly, I wanted to play with the idea of redemption and what, in the end, would finally give Xena the absolution she so painfully sought.

I used the intense conversations between Hannibal Lechter and Clarise Starling from "Silence of the Lambs" as a model. I [strove] for the same type of intensity between Gayle Bardo and Sandra Goode. In other words, instead of descriptive prose, I let the dialog tell the story.

Ladis: My favorite episodes on 'XWP' have always been the deeper and emotionally charged situations for Xena and Gabrielle. I feel that incorporating like scenarios into a story brings the characters 'closer to home'. By causing our gals to go through the same kind of emotional hell (in some cases) in my writing as they do on the show makes them seem more alive to me. The unique foundation of their close relationship is also what I drew most of my inspiration from and hoped to convey in my stories.

Poto: I think initially, I may have been rebelling against the tendency in fanfiction to make Xena such a hearts and flowers type of character. I mean, if you look at the show, not every story ends in a fully resolved or truly 'happy' ending, and I've found over the years that my favourite stories have tended to be those with the characters needing to overcome tragedy, pick themselves up and move on. Xena is essentially an anti-hero, someone who has overcome a great deal of tragedy in order to find herself, and I found that side of her personality more interesting to work with initially, even in uber stories.

As a writer I find that writing tragedy is also a good way to purge your inner demons too! If you're feeling a bit tortured in life it often feels quite necessary to torture your characters and your audience in similar ways! [smiles]

I have no interest at all in fiction that tends to 'blunt the edges' if you know what I mean. Whether it is comedy, tragedy, satire, farce, whatever, I like to feel that the author is really letting go, really exploring the depths of conflict and emotionÖ without being melodramatic about it of course. Conflict is the fuel that feeds fiction. If you try to protect your audience from really experiencing conflict and tragedy then you are doing your audience and your characters a huge disservice.

EM: Do you think your stories about tragedy or loaded with angst serve a moral purpose, if not what purpose?

Lariel: To be honest, I don't really see myself as a moral crusader so I tend not to think on that level about what I'm writing. I wouldn't call my stories social or political in any way, and I do prefer to take a moment in time and an emotional response to it and really dig down into that. What I'm going for is more emotional honesty, rather than any moral message or lessons to be learned. And as most of my dramatic stories seem to end with one or more characters dead, I sure hope that isn't my moral!

Pallas: I'm not one to judge anything moralistic and so I can't really comment on the moral impact. I do think the purpose that tragedy serves in our society is to help people categorize their own suffering and perhaps understand it through the eyes of another.

For example, in my story "Beyond and Forever," I write about Gabrielle dying of cancer and her fears of telling Xena and possibly losing her and her love. She also struggles with the desire to send Xena away and spare them both the pain of seeing her wither and die. When I wrote the story I was merely beginning a tale and leading it to its logical conclusion. However, I was overwhelmed with the responses I received on the story. Many people wrote me of their own tragedies and how my story either helped them to cry about it; or helped them to understand their situation a little better. To me it was a story, but to others it became more. So maybe that is the purpose served by tragedy and angst.

Redhawk: Gods, I know nothing about moral purposes! We all have morals and principles of our own and I wouldn't dream of preaching my own brand to anyone else. On the other hand, I've had tons of responses regarding "Warlord Metal," more so than any other story I've done. Collectively, they all said the same thing - This story was very difficult to get through but at the end it was worth it. If anything, I believe my tale asks the reader to look at a stereotypical situation with new eyes.

Lois: The simple fact is that real life can be and often is, tragic. Events overcome us that we can't control, loved ones suffer or die, and perhaps we ourselves undergo harsh trials. I read to escape, but that doesn't mean I only want to read about sunshine, lollipops and frolicking puppies. I think our essential nobility lies in the way we handle and overcome life's ordeals, and I hope that my characters reflect my beliefs. They make mistakes, they inadvertently hurt each other, but they also love and grow. I'm not preaching to anyone through my stories. I resent when a story attempts to do that to me. I'm only out to entertain and tell an intriguing tale, but if a reader takes away a sense of inspiration or resolution from my work, then I don't have a problem with that either.

DJWP: I don't much believe in art as a moral purpose. Morality is, after all, subjective.

Lela: [My stories are] not serving a moral purpose on any conscious level. I'm sure there's an underlying moral in there somewhere, but if someone points it out to me, I'll be as surprised by it as they were when they first read it. The things I write have a habit of surprising me that way.

Ladis: My main aim in blending conflict and or extreme situations into a story is to move the reader. There's no greater compliment for me than to receive mail from people that tell me how deeply they were affected by what I wrote.

Morrig: I believe that in tragedy we see the worst and best of humankind, either the weakness in 'man' that leads to surrender or the strength to go on. I only write what I see and what I have known, unfortunately the setting is a world that most know little about or have judgments of based on what they see in the media. In this way I guess that serves to give some sort of exposition to it, a sort of attempt to clarify and introduce an understanding to the shadows of the ghetto so often misinterpreted.

Anne: It is my job, in developing a storyline, to invent enough antagonism to challenge characters with a lot of ability. Anything less would seem like simply chronicling everyday living, which defeats the entire purpose of writing fiction.

Poto: I'm going to answer this on two levels so bear with me. I know that what you mean is, do we learn a lesson from tragedy? The answer to that is yes. We learn that courage overcomes adversity. We learn that forgiveness is the essence of loving someone, whether that is forgiving them for betraying you, or for dying on you and leaving you alone. I know that losing someone made me [angrier] than I can remember being, and you need to channel that anger into something positive in your life. Sometimes tragic stories can act as allegories for people's lives and that makes the lesson they should have learned from their own tragedy more apparent to them. So in that sense, making us face our deepest fears through fiction is a moral purpose.

However, on flip side, I sometimes wonder is it moral to deliberately set out to push those emotional buttons that are buried deep inside your audience? Digging up old wounds in order to make people face them? In a sense pushing your ideals about what should be learned from tragedy on someone else? It is a classic writer's dilemma.

I'll tell you a story. After I wrote "Out of Sarajevo", which is the tragic piece most people have read of mine, I got a letter from a woman in Serbia who was deeply offended by my portrayal of her people, talking about the mass graves that were uncovered after the war. She accused me of writing about something I knew nothing about, relying on CNN broadcasts and distorted western news about the Balkan wars in order to get an interesting backdrop for my story. She felt I'd failed in my responsibility as a writer by writing about something I knew nothing about. I countered with the usual "Well, I'm a fiction writer, not a journalist, and I'm sorry you feel that way" type of response, but in a way I have always felt that she was right. You have to be so careful when you set out to push emotional buttons in people that you have your story straight, otherwise you might be doing someone out there more harm than good.

I'll tell you, I believe in the imagination, in the fiction writer's right to explore in places he/she has never been, to talk about things we've never experienced. The point of my story was to demonstrate how one brief tragic encounter can colour your whole existence, change the course of your life. I believe deeply in that, and have had that happen to me, so I was 'qualified' to write about that part I think. I have no idea why I chose the backdrop I did, have no idea why I decided to add in elements of human rights abuse, of war and the sadness of it. Perhaps it was to emphasise that the strangest things happen to people at the strangest times. Perhaps it was to screw the tension and conflict up a notch. Perhaps it was to just push more and more emotional buttons. Was I right to do it? The letter I received made me wonder.

EM: How did you maintain story interest amidst the tragedy?

Poto: Simple. No matter what kind of story you are telling, the characters are the key. You can have the best storyline in the world, but without great characters to relate to no one will ever finish it. You can't let the tragedy overwhelm your characters, otherwise no one will care what happens to them. After all, a tragedy is for bad things to happen to people we care about. If we don't care about the characters, we won't care about the tragedy. Good characters hold the reader.

Ladis: Well, I tried to make the dialog and the imagery as genuine as possible, even though the scenes are set in fantasy worlds. Keeping the action flowing along at a decent pace helps a bit too.

Midgit: [I try to do it] by having the characters become stronger, and their relationship grow despite it. Though I wouldn't say my stories really have a tragedy aspect to it. Readers want to read about characters overcoming adversity. If they can build on their relationship and grow stronger because of it; maybe that will inspire someone in a similar situation not to give up.

Morrig: Heh, I'm not sure if I have maintained interest. What I do know is that my characters keep going despite whatever obstacles are thrown at them. When the tragedy is too much for anyone to overcome, such as a death, then I hope the reader sees the value in that character's life and role.

Redhawk: In this case? [Laughs] SEX! And LOTS of it!!

Honestly, I think the growth of the characters over a span of time (approximately five years) helped some. I've heard many reports that people had to sit down two or three times to finally finish the thing - each time they'd get to a difficult point, they'd stop and come back months later. Is that maintaining interest? Or is it maintaining the train wreck philosophy? It's so horrible that readers returned again and again until they could stomach the entire thing.

Pallas: Quite honestly, I'm not a plotter. My stories often begin with a spark that leads to an opening sentence and from there it's off and running. (some crash and burn, too.) To answer your question, I feel the characters keep the story interesting. But as a writer, you must know your characters completely, and see them as completely separate beings if you are to write convincing tragedy. That means they have to be human and react in ways that your readers would react.

To use another of my stories as an example, I'll chose "Unconquered." (my personal favorite.) In this story I take the conqueror storyline and warp it a little. Gabrielle is living with the Amazons after Xena raided her village and burned her family alive while holding her and making her watch. Gabs has sworn a blood vengeance, and when news arrives that Xena has surrendered to an Amazon outpost, Gab feels her time has come to kill Xena.

She convinces Ephiny to take her along when they go to bring the conqueror to trial. When given the chance to see Xena, Gab is both intrigued and confused by her feelings. However, feeling that she must avenge her family, she returns to kill Xena but finds she can't. They have an unexplained bond that then drives the story forward. The interest is held because the reader wants to know how it all ends up.

The tragedy comes when both characters recognize their bond and attraction, but their duty to their lives forces them to separate. It's not the ending that was expected, nor was it satisfying. It was a heart wrenching separation that leaves the reader feeling the loss.

As with most of my stories, I've gotten a ton of mail asking for a sequel. I can't write them. To me the story is finished when I write 'The End'. It's not that I can't write a happy ending, it's more that the tragic one speaks the truth.

That was a long way to explain that knowing your characters and writing believable action and reaction to events is the best way to keep a reader interested during a tragedy. Either that or it's like slowing down for a car wreck on the side of the road ... you just want to see how it ends.

Lariel: Well its interesting, because I noticed myself that there's very little plot in my stories. I'm not good at it, and that's why very little actually happens. So I guess interest must be maintained through characterisation.

Plus the fact that I'm kind of known now for my twists and surprises, so that keeps people on their toes. They're never quite sure what I'm going to do with my people. But I think the key to holding interest in a tragedy is really to hold back the emotion - deluge people and they get a little punch drunk. Let the events unfold, allow the characters space & room to respond, give them some emotional honesty in their responses and basically, don't lay it on too thick. People cry because they see how other people are feeling and they apply it to themselves, not because they're told to.

DJWP: If the story, ["Lost Soul Walking"] was able to catch and hold the reader, I think it might have been because the story's true purpose was hinted at, but not revealed until the end. Also, the angst was not the story, the redemption was the story. Plots that revolve around angst and nothing but angst tend to give me a tragedy overdose. Angst should be a part of the plot, but not the focus of the story.

Lois: I think the key to that is getting your readers involved with your characters. If they care about a character, if they genuinely worry about what choices or what direction that character will go in, then they're going to stay glued to the plot to find out. It's also a balance in that you don't want to turn off the reader by making it all doom and gloom. Touches of humour, a lighter moment, and a trace of hope...all these serve to alleviate the angst and make it easier to bear when it seems the heaviest. I often use a secondary character, not to detract from the main plot, but to leaven the mood and remind both the characters and the readers that life does go on even through trials and tribulations.

Lela: It wasn't my intention to sit down and write 'a tragedy'. If I ever do set out to write something with such a fixed structure, I generally find that it doesn't want to come out. I write to find out what's going to happen; if that's already worked out, there's no impetus to write.

With "Kill Shot", I started out with the concept of the three main characters - which, being Xena uber fiction, were based on the Xena, Gabrielle and Ares archetypes - and went from there.

Question by question, fragment by fragment, scene by scene. The fact that the scenes formed a tragedy was just a result of the answers I found to my questions. If readers found the answers interesting, well and good

EM: Why do you think readers are drawn to tragic drama and can an unhappy ending be worthwhile?

Pallas: Absolutely. Tragic endings make life worthwhile. It's the old saying 'that which does not kills us, makes us stronger.' They ain't talkin about happy endings.

However, I think readers are drawn to a good story. As a professional writer, I know the full value of writing well and stating your purpose with clarity. When that can be done in fiction, and is combined with good characterizations and a believable, interesting plot, then I believe a reader will complete it for pure enjoyment.

Like I said earlier, tragic endings are lessons that we learn and share. That is why people are drawn to them. I personally have a selection of movies, books and songs that I enjoy when I'm feeling sad. They help me work through my pain and move forward. I also think that tragic endings stick with a reader and can become like an old friend.

Ladis: I believe it's because tragedy touches the sympathetic cord in most of us. We can all relate as well as hearken back to something unpleasant that happened in our lives. A tearjerker end is possibly a more 'realistic' close to a yarn than a happy one, and creates room for interesting discussion. Only one of the endings of the two stories I wrote would be considered happy; my other story was a slightly "up in the air" type leaving a possibility for a sequel. I have yet to write a fanfic with a truly tragic finale.

Redhawk: I am of the opinion that tragedy equals growth. There are people in the world who are quite shallow; their lives have been spectacular or mediocre. In either case, no tragedy, no growth. I think folks need to see the tragedy, feel it, embrace it in their own lives and LEARN from it. Those that have are invariably drawn to stories of the same, at least to see different aspects. Or there's still the train wreck philosophy...[chuckles]

I've yet to try it, but I believe that an unhappy ending can be worthwhile. Just as writing is the art of taking an emotion and applying it to a fictional situation, so is an unhappy ending. It can be a release of sorts, whether of the reader mourning the death of a character or simply mourning death as a whole, a catharsis.

Anne: I seem to see a lot of apologizing going on in the world. People are strongly motivated by shame and that fascinates me. It feels cliche for me to write characters trying to live down their past but it ties in with the whole 'need to be forgiven' ideal that equalizes us. Whether on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness, we all know the peace that accompanies either.

I find it interesting to discover that while I personally don't like confrontation, I enjoy conflict.

Lois: In many ways, I believe that tragic drama is a catharsis. Our emotions are ratcheted as the writer dictates and then the resolution purges us, leaving a sense of relief even if entwined with emotional exhaustion.

We leave the traumatic pages of the story and return to our own lives, with renewed gratefulness for the ordinary, commonplace pleasures of those lives. As to whether an unhappy ending can be worthwhile, I suppose it can, and certainly if you're going to be realistic, happy endings aren't guaranteed in real life so why should they be in literature. That said, as a died-in-the-wool romantic optimist, I hate unhappy endings, and even an excellent story can be ruined for me with a gloomy denouement.

Poto: Bad things happen in our lives, and stories that show people going through adversity and emerging out the other side inspire people not to give up when bad things happen to them. Also, I think some people just like a good cry! I know I do.

Unhappy endings are worthwhile, but only if there is some glimmer of hope in them. Killing characters off and not giving any hope in return isn't a good ending. You need to have it happen for a purpose. Characters always need to learn from their tragedy otherwise there's no point. I think the mistake that is often made is depressing people for no reason, just because you felt bloodthirsty and wanted to kill off a character! As with any element of any story, it won't work unless it is meaningful.

DJWP: No two ways about it, a tragic character is a multi-dimensional character (just ask Shakespeare; I'm sure he'll agree).

And, I'm the wrong person to ask about unhappy endings. I need a happy ending ... hence, the happy ending to "Lost Soul Walking".

An unhappy ending can only be worthwhile ... IF there's a sequel. [smiles]

Lariel: I think any story which allows us to experience or purge emotions ourselves will draw readers, whether it be a comedy or a drama. It's the traditional cathartic element that the Greeks used to love so much. There's nothing like bawling your eyes out at a sad film/book/story to make you feel cleansed somehow...

Can an unhappy ending be worthwhile? This is a difficult one. For me, yes - an unhappy ending can be just as valid as a happy one. In fact, I tend to go for them more. But I know that for many people happy endings are definitely preferred. Maybe its easier to write a happy ending? I really have to force myself to do it.

I have had a lot of people write to me for a sequel to "Last Night" and "Deep Black Water" - which I won't do - so that there can be 'justice' for Emmy, or 'happiness' for Charlie. The response to the ending of "Shattered" was resoundingly silent. I don't think people like unhappy endings.

Midgit: I have considered using an unhappy ending, though I don't like them myself. A story I am working on at the moment may have an unhappy ending. And readers, in my opinion, are drawn to angsty stories in the hope that the characters can overcome the difficulties they encounter, and become stronger together.

Morrig: I think tragedy is attractive to some readers because they can identify with either the characters or their situations. After all, it is that so many people identify with Xena and Gabrielle that have made the show as popular as it is. Fantasy may be fine for others, but reality can be much more personal. There are truths and lessons to be learned in it, and as my father was fond of saying "when you stop learning, you start dying."

A happy ending makes you feel good yes, but does it stay with you forever? Maybe, maybe not. I'd like to think that it is the journey and not the ending that makes a story worthwhile.

Lela: If it were possible to [separate the tragedy from the story], if the unhappy ending could be lifted from the story and maintain its own independent existence, then I daresay it wouldn't be worthwhile.

In my story, the unhappy ending grew from the characters, and try as I might I couldn't find an honest resolution to their story without following a tragic path.

EM: Well I'm ready to pull out the Kleenex again, but I've also been given a lot to ponder. It's easy to enjoy the 'happy' ending, but tragedy does give the reader an opportunity to explore the 'hard' facts of life. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and as always encourage the readers to let the bards know that a story was worth the read.

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