First off, thanks to all who commented on part one, not only because comments make my day, but because your insights were truly helpful. As I said, I haven’t figured this all out yet, so I loved hearing your perspectives on this topic.
As I read your comments and contemplated this further, I noticed a trend: Everyone agrees that there has to be some depression in a book/story/work of art. As the Switchfoot song says, “The shadow proves the sunshine.” Or, as Andrew Peterson puts it beautifully: “darkness is seldom complete, and even when it is, the pinprick of light is not long in coming — and finer for the great shroud that surrounds it.” Not only is the resolution at the end of story all the sweeter for the tension that leads up to it, you can’t really have a plot at all without some conflict. So, yes, depression is necessary.
What becomes harder is when you ask if it’s okay to write depressing things only. Everyone seems to be perfectly fine with a book being depressing as long as there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, a glimpse of hope at the end. But what if there is no hope, no light? What then?
In the end, I decided on this: Yes and no. And before I elaborate, let me say that I really hate answering questions like that. I like there to be a solid, no-exceptions-ever solution. That’s why I despise those equation systems that can have two answers (you know, if it’s a line intersecting a parabola or something) or, worse, the ones that can have an infinite number of solutions. Just tell me x and y nice and simple, if you don’t mind. I don’t like my conclusion, but in this case, I believe it’s the one that best answers the question.
So, here we go. Yes, it’s fine to write a purely depressing something when …
1) … it’s not all you write. If the only thing you ever write is gloomy and morbid, then something’s wrong. Of course, even this is subject to exceptions, because we all go through phases. A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine ending anything on a less-than-perfect note (which was probably more reflective of my highly amateurish writing talent than my personal preferences). Now, I enjoy experimenting in all kinds of stories, from the tragic to the comedic. So if you’ve been writing depressing things recently, I wouldn’t necessarily panic. If it goes on for more than a few months, though, perhaps it’s time to remind yourself of the truth that there is a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
2) … it’s a snapshot. Like I said in my previous post, some stories — especially those on the shorter end — and poems are not supposed to be an all-inclusive view of life. They are merely a quick glimpse into a certain scene or emotion, and discerning readers will understand this.
3) … the story offers other Biblical morals. Every story has some sort of moral, but no story includes every single truth you should know. Usually, the author is trying to convey just one thing to the reader. So perhaps the point of your story isn’t to demonstrate that there is still light, despite the darkness, but to depict the devastating effects of sin. That is just as Biblical a moral as the first, and I think we often lose sight of this fact. The most depressing stories I’ve read are also those that they most convicted me about the consequences of sin, which was actually a blessing.
4) … it’s not purely for the sake of being depressing. There’s got to be something more, some other reason for why it’s depressing. There has to be something else to make it worth it. As a Christian writer, it’s my job to portray God’s truth in some way, and writing a depressing something with no other redeeming value is wrong. However, I believe there are several ways to write a depressing thing and yet depict make it worth reading and even edifying.
In my next and last post in this mini-series, I’ll look at a few depressing things I’ve read that have been a blessing to me, just to prove all I said above. Any thoughts on my exceptions? Do you have more ideas or qualifications on these?