Carol Vorvain is the author of 'When Dreams are Calling', 'Why not? - The island where happiness starts with a question' and 'A Fool in Istanbul - The adventures of a self-denying workaholic'.
Sasha Lane is the author of 'Girl, Conflicted' and 'Girl, Unhinged'.
Aditi Ray Bose is the author of a collection of short stories for children titled 'Hama-Guri Goes To School' and two romance novels 'My Dream Man' and 'This Time it's Forever'.
Each month on Writers Boon Blog, three writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Carol, Sasha and Aditi discuss the difficulties in writing about happiness.
By Carol Vorvain, author and co-founder of Writers Boon
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." That’s what Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers of all time, tells us at the beginning of “Anna Karenina.” But is it true? Does happiness lack suspense, desire, nuances? Is happiness indeed so uniform, so boring that it’s not worthwhile exploring by writers?
Well, I doubt so.
In the eyes who only seek beauty, happiness is as diverse as unhappiness. Ordinary things turn extraordinary. Ordinary gestures bring tears of joy. A bustling home, full of children, watching your two daughters grow into fine ladies, waking up next to the loved one dumbstruck at your luck of meeting them, tending your garden on a bright sunny day, they all become singular events, visions of happiness we will never experience in quite the same way.
This happiness is granular and as contagious as smallpox. Each ordinary, but happy event touches and changes our entire world. Like the desert that, for a few days a year, turns green when kissed by the rain, one happy event is enough for our lives to suddenly gain meaning like never before. And, while our feet might still be stuck in the mud of our daily chores, we’ll feel as if we are walking on clouds, temporarily removed from any pain or suffering.
Later on, writing about the happiness we experienced in such moments, brings it all back. As memories become more vivid, the old us fades away and a different us, more peaceful, more insightful, more joyful emerges from the darkness. With each word, our mind becomes a blur with possibilities, hopes, dreams, each more daring than the next. Our characters start reminding us that this life is nothing but a circus and each of us is nothing but a clown waiting to come out and start to play.
Writing about happy events that we've lived or wish we would have lived rewires our brains. We start focusing on the seed of light, rather than on the seed of darkness.
In the end, writing happy books turns into a selfish and empowering act. It teaches us that while it’s easy in our modern era to succumb to depression, get into that downward spiral and write about it as if it’s the only truth, we also have a choice. More than a choice, we have a responsibility. A responsibility to explore the beauty of this world, not its ugliness, the acts of generosity and kindness not the selfishness, the miracles, not only the catastrophes.
As the old Chinese proverb reminds us: we cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over our heads but we must not let them build a nest in our hair.
Writing happy characters, offering happy endings it’s ultimately not living in denial, it’s not pretending we never spent darksome hours weeping, enduring what is distasteful.
Writing happy characters, happy endings it’s a manifesto, a conscious choice to focus on beauty.
By Sasha Lane, author
Happy characters, writing about stuff that make you laugh and are light hearted does not threaten your credibility as an author. Finding your writing style as an author can be the most important factor. And once you found it, you should embrace it. Write for you and no one else and love what you write. In the end, your writing style must only suit the genre you are writing in. If your writing is easy going with humor, then write 'Chick Lit.'
Even when I write about serious topics that affect everyday women, I try to do it in a lighter style. I hope that people can then associate with my characters and the journey they go through, whilst enjoying the book and having some fun. I love the fact that writing allows me to become consumed by another world and for the most part, I like this world to be light hearted.
The 'Chick Lit' style books I write now are far from the type of book I started writing in the beginning. When I first started writing I thought, to be taken seriously, I had to write something that was deep and meaningful and to me this was a serious book with a criminal undertone. This is the type of novel I initially started to write. About 40,000 words in I decided to get some professional advice. I sourced an editor whose style I liked, I sent her the my novel and I waited with anticipation for her reply. When it arrived, I think it's fair to say it was a shock. It looked like a teacher had scrawled in red pen all over my book. The comments were constructive, but in essence said "Your writing style doesn't suit the genre you are writing in. This isn't good".
I valued the feedback I had been given. I stopped worrying about what I thought I should write about and I just wrote all the funny, crazy stuff that goes around my head. I wrote stuff that made me laugh and was light hearted. I wrote stuff that I thought might be controversial. But in essence I just wrote without a preconceived idea about what I was writing about. I changed from writing in third person to first person - when all the stuff out there says you must write in third person. Rubbish I say. E L James, love or hate her books, writes in first person and I wouldn't mind being a pound behind her earnings from book sales. Then, I sent it back to the same editor. This time the feedback was positive, with comments in the margin like "This made me laugh!"
Now I’m an author who loves every minute of writing 'Chick Lit'. As for being taken seriously, I'm flattered and proud to say that the feedback I have received on my books so far has been more than I could have expected. Total strangers have come up to me at events just to tell me how much they loved my book - you can't put a value on that.
Write for you and no one else and love what you write.
By Aditi Ray Bose, author
Writing is easy. It does not matter whether the writing is about happiness or misery. If the person likes to write, then it’s easy. And not only that - writing is a form of catharsis. It is the path to get out of misery and feel happiness.
As a self-help author, I have touched upon the topic of depression many times in my books. It certainly is an escalating problem within society as a whole and yet, I sense that many authors spend too much time focusing on the negative aspects of this mental illness. In saying that, any sufferer of depression is really looking for a way out of the cloudiness. Fortunately, there is 'hope' and, if a person wishes to turn misery into some level of happiness, they only need to start looking within. It’s widely known amongst the mental health field scholars that medication regimes often make a person feel worse.
There are two profound ways a person can find some sunshine among these cloudy days and start their recovery. One is through daily 'prayer.' The other is 'meditation'. Both are free and can be performed anywhere at any time. After a while, miracles will start happening. Happiness will only come if there is 'faith'.
People say it's easier to write about misery because happiness is a very difficult concept to grasp and feel. I don't quite agree. Happiness is really very simple. If you are doing what you like to do, you will always have a smile on your face. Like the one I have right now.
Writing is a form of catharsis, a path to get out of misery and feel happiness.