By: Casie Holdcroft
When you think of a happy story, you might think of Disney, Hallmark, or various children’s literature. You might even think of happy stories as dull and predictable. Certainly not as the height of fine literature. There is something about the darker elements of the world that intrigues readers (and writers) and compels them to explore the horrible happenings in a story. How could a happy story compete with a captivating and enthralling tragedy?
This thought process is why it can be rare for an author to stray from the expected dark tale. But there is something truly beautiful about a well-written “happy” story. It can feel like something new and different for the audience to read; a breath of fresh air, so to speak. However, it can also be a challenge to write and avoid the boring and expected tropes. Here are a few tips that might help once you’re ready to lighten the mood!
The Story Still Needs Conflict
This may sound contradictory, but a happy story still needs conflict. A happy story does not need to be all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it shouldn’t be. However, the story doesn’t need to focus on the negative part of the conflict. There are many ways to do this. For example, the story can start in conflict, and then tell of the journey out of the conflict. Or the conflict can be a misunderstanding instead of something darker. There are plenty of options.
A Flawed Main Character
Just because they exist in a happy story, doesn’t mean the main character has to be perfect. Perfection is not realistic and can make it hard for a reader to connect with a character. Instead, embrace your character’s flaws. Help them to realize their struggles and grow through them. A story of progress and hope is one of realistic happiness. For example, it is well known that in Harry Potter, Harry deals with severe anger issues in the fifth book. This rounds him out as a character, leading him astray from the flawless hero trope.
A character’s emotions are important in nearly every story, including happy ones. An audience becomes invested in a character through their emotions. Emotions are what make a story engaging. The characters in a happy story are not always happy, and that’s important, because it’s realistic. As the conflict arises, they should be sad, frustrated, embarrassed, and angry. This negative emotions make feelings like excitement, content, and joy all the more rewarding. Help your audience understand your character’s feelings and what their goal is. Then, take your readers along for the ride. Before your audience knows what happened, they’ll be invested and engaged in the story, waiting to know how it will end.
There are many stereotypes and tropes about happy stories, and it’s important to know and recognize them, so you can work around them. This isn’t always easy and can actually be quite a challenge. However, it will also make you a stronger writer. Try writing a happy story and see what happens.
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