Well, I just finished another revision pass on my WIP. This one was for the final edition of a trilogy, and revising the ending has really gotten me thinking. Not just about the story. It’s also made me take a look at myself—at who I am as a storyteller, and how this process has changed me. As well as how my story and I reflect the times and fit into the world around me.
Before I go on, I’m going to offer a mild potential spoiler warning to anyone who plans on someday reading my upcoming trilogy…. Hey, stop laughing. Honest, it’s coming. Oh, I see—you’re laughing because you think it’s cute that Roycroft is worried about some dubious future audience. I suppose I deserve it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Ready? Here’s the spoiler: My trilogy is a tragedy.
Some of you might now be wondering how much of a spoiler that statement could possibly be. I suppose we’d better lay down some definitions and parameters for the discussion.
Webster’s defines tragedy as:
1a : a disastrous event : calamity. b : misfortune.
2a : a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror.
Since we’re talking about a story, we’re obviously referencing the second definition. But if you look into the specifics of literary tragedy, you’ll find that most experts narrow the definition to the protagonist in question being “brought low.” In other words, for a story to be considered a true tragedy (not just a tearjerker or a horror), the hero ends up either dead, or better off dead.
Hence my warning.
My Tragic Storytelling Past
Seriously, when I considered broaching the topic, I really did pause for a moment. But only for a moment. I mean, does knowing in advance that a story ends with a protagonist’s death keep some readers away? Probably yes, right? But do I really want to court those readers? Probably not. Not that one and all won’t be welcome. But I certainly don’t want to invite people who are going to (hopefully) become invested, only to get to the end of three books to be disappointed. Or worse, outraged.
The potentially constricting nature of the element begs the question—why tragedy? I’m already dealing with a limited audience of adult epic fantasy readers. Why add another hindrance? [Read more…]