Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PSYCHOLOGY: Grief and Bereavement

Two excellent finds in Jeannie Campbell's excellent blog are a series of articles on Types of Grief and Facets of Grief. These are very good reads and perfectly slip into my current research into reactions to trauma. It's always wonderful to find someone else succinctly giving you the information you need....

Funnily enough, a lot of novels include triggers for grief but I think the fantasy genre include the most but often deal with it the least. In some cases, this is because it wouldn't be appropriate to send a swashbuckling tale of magic and monsters crashing back to Earth. In other cases, it would be appropriate but it's hard not to be swept up in the action and exploration that comes naturally to most fantasy authors. It's hard to sit down and realize that right now the character would be thinking, 'Screw the shining whirl pool, the pretty fairies, and the gorgeous underground tunnels, this picturesque place doesn't make me feel uplifted ... it just makes me angry because the world somehow remains pretty while my life is destroyed'.

While I'm sure many of you can think of multiple incidents of protagonists getting upset over death, what about the more subtle triggers of grief. Think of the average fantasy novel. It often involves a character living in a small village or town for all their life, rarely visiting other towns, and then leaving forever and flying / running / hiking through six different types of terrain. They have a bout of grief, wail and gnash their teeth, but generally this is only if their home town is actually destroyed or if they were exiled. I've been stressed by moving house into a bigger house a few suburbs away ... yet these people who up and leave small towns for the big beyond don't bat an eye unless some great trauma happened.

The characters often visit places that are similar to their old rundown villages and strikingly different like a city in the clouds, yet they're barely touched by homesickness or nostalgia. They barely even think of their own towns or villages, unless its a memory of some traumatic incident or another, and even in the case of trauma - it rarely flavors the mood. Have you ever been stressed out of your mind? Or scared? Or even nostalgic? It changes how you see things. Thinking on it, even a young adult or more light-hearted fantasy could use at least a few touches of these responses. It just adds a touch of depth that is rarely seen but which could really help me identify with a character.

How many of us have been excited yet sad when leaving home for the first time? Or had a pang of nostalgia over some small thing? How much easier would it be to identify with a character who had similar responses to leaving home? I'd assume it'd be all the more stressful for someone who has never left their village before, as well. It'd be the equivalent of moving to a radically different country. Divorces have happened over less.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think to express grief, or any emotion, effectively the writer has to put themself in the zone of that emotion. Sometimes I think it's difficult to maintain an extended inner fictional grief that works well to be transferred to the page. Writers who have an inclination toward the somber or sad probably write grief better than a more cheery writer. That's one way that I might look at it.

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