As you write do you consider how your words will affect your reader’s mood? Will he be uplifted to a better place or left wondering whether or not to slit his throat?
The Reading Agency and BBC Headroom have worked with reading groups to identify a selection of ‘Mood-busting Books’ that should leave you with a smile. The list includes The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell and The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
I think it’s hard to write something that makes a reader a happy. It’s so much easier to make a story out of tragedy or misfortune – after all if everything is going swimmingly for your characters, where’s the conflict that we are told is an essential element of every piece of fiction? A death, divorce or double-dealing fraudster immediately threw up dozens of plot lines but it’s harder to make a compelling piece of fiction out of happy family life. Making your reader feel good is much more of a challenge than making them feel sad.
Judges of short story competitions often complain that there are too few entries that make them smile. Imagine wading through a couple of hundred stories dwelling on the harsher side of life – the one story that can make you laugh and raise your mood must make it to the short list.
So why not read one of the mood-busting books above and then practise some ‘feel-good’ writing – January is dismal enough without making it worse with massive amounts of melodrama.
To get the creative juices flowing, here are a few places to target with your smiley stories and pick-me-up poems:
- The Marple Short Story and Poetry competition is offering a special prize for the best humourous poem submitted
- East of the Web publishes short stories online and has a humour section – unfortunately there is no payment other than a page to publicise yourself, including links to your own blog/website.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes inspirational books, comprising a selection of short pieces on a particular theme designed to encourage, comfort or amuse. They are currently looking for submissions around themes such as weddings, Canada and marriage. The full list is here.
And if you just want something to cheer yourself up during these grey weeks – enter my free prize draw.
#1 by Patsy Collins on January 18, 2011 - 10:30 pm
I agree it can be easier to make people sad than to make them happy – maybe the sad stuff is more universal and the happy stuff more specific? We’d probably all feel sympathy for someone who lost a loved one, but it would be harder to get excited about their lottery win – unless we really felt we knew them and that they deserved the good luck.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on January 19, 2011 - 9:59 am
Patsy, thanks for the comment. So maybe the secret of ‘happy’ writing is really well-drawn characters that readers can empathise with?