One of the best ways to find yourself as a writer–or heck, even as a reader–is to make a list of the types of stories that you love to read. This will help you decide what to write or purchase. Here are five things that I love in books and in TV shows and movies.
1. Comedies (as Opposed to Tragedies)
Comedies are stories of people overcoming hardship; tragedies focus on characters who are overcome by hardship. The comedies I’m talking about aren’t necessarily slapstick nonsense, but they do end on a positive note. Lots of people seem to think that tragedies are somehow superior, but I’ve always thought it was easier to write a story that ended with sorrow. Writing a deep story–without glossing over or diminishing difficulties–about people who overcome the hardships of life is much harder. It’s easy to be negative. It’s difficult to be positive. I want to read–and write–the more challenging thing.
It’s not just me who thinks this way. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes:
Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.
He also says:
“[Comedies], in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete. The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man…. Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.”
2. Interesting Characters
Give me the quirks and the foibles. Show me the rough edges and the awkwardness. More points if you can make me like the quirky oddballs and the grumps. I want to see these people overcoming the challenges in their lives.
3. HEA: Happily Ever After
This is closely tied to number 1, but I’m mentioning it twice because it’s kind of a big deal for me. Every plot thread doesn’t have to be tied up perfectly, but I want the characters I love to end up happily for the most part.
4. Character Development
It’s not enough for characters to be interesting. House was an interesting character, but I lost my interest when I read an interview with Hugh Laurie that said he didn’t think audiences liked it when characters changed. Change is what I live for. In real life, people grow and change. Therefore, characters should also grow and change. If they never change, then there’s no point in reading or watching because you’ll see the same thing over and again. Pass.
5. Mixed Genres
I’m an eclectic reader. I love books that cross genres. Give me a crime dramedy or a spy comedy or a small town mystery (not a cozy mystery). One of the greatest aspects of the TV show Longmire (and the books on which it was based) is that it could be classified as a modern western crime drama. There were vicious murders and rapes, but instead of being handled in NYC or Chicago with all the big-city resources (like every other crime drama), it took place in Absaroka County, Wyoming, with very few murders solved in the forensics lab. I found it refreshing to see crimes solved by going out and talking to people instead of investigating a fiber in the lab.