Contrary to my cynical expectations, I was surprised to see a sizeable backlash against the plot of recent film release/original book "Me Before You" - a story involving a have-who-loses-all and a have-not-who-loves-life. I was pleased to see this backlash because the story is ACTUALLY HORRENDOUS.
DO NOT AVOID THESE SPOILERS: THEY WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER WRITER
How sweet is a story of a cynical paraplegic falling in love with his quaint, vibrant caretaker? Um, basically very. Cue me, reading the Wikipedia synopsis and HAVING ALL ILLUSIONS DESTROYED. Thank you, modern writing, for crapping so thoroughly on such a cute premise.
PREMISE IN BRIEF | Will(iam??), rich young have-it-all, loses everything in an accident and putts around in a wheelchair. He wants to go to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal. His parents convince him to stick around for six more months, during which time they hope he will change his mind. Enter Louisa (probably pronounced "Loueesur," 'cause British), who has nothing but a joy of life, and signs on to care for Will. He thaws, they fall in love, how awesome... AND AT THE END HE STILL DECIDES TO COMMIT SUICIDE.
WHAT. THE HELL. Floored. Disgusted. Outraged. My reactions + apparently the reactions of many readers/viewers. This, my friends, is stupidity and tear-jerking at its WORST.
1. There is NO point to Will's death. Unlike stories built around the premise that one of the characters is terminally ill yet still forms a blossoming attachment with another character, Will did NOT have to die. He chose to succumb to the idea that his life was worthless because he could not longer ski/ride a motorcycle/get it on with the ladies. WOW. What a shallow son of a bitch.
2. Despite the fact that he CLEARLY HAS SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR NOW AND NOTHING IS STOPPING HIM, he chooses death and breaking Louisa's heart. AND THIS IS COMMENDABLE HOW??
3. Author Jojo Moyes said in a radio interview that she LIKES making readers/viewers cry because it shows her that she has made an emotional connection with people. (Kind of like a woman screaming tells the dominant bondage individual that he has inflicted pain on the subordinate.)
I WOULD BREAK YOUR FINGERS IF I COULD
This is an insult to the following:
- human life
- human connection + affection
- basic storytelling
- people who actually have disabilities + rock their life, choosing to be awesome instead of pathetically dead
IF I COULD, I would take away your ability to make readers cry. I would do that. I would force you to engage your readership in other ways, make them connect with your characters in ways that define BEYOND mere pain.
- make them love
- make them hate
- make them angry
- make them ecstatic
- make them fight with their whole soul for the attainment of the storyline
Yes, DO THAT TO YOUR READERS. Put away tear-jerking for a season. It has its place, but it is FAR TOO EASY TO ABUSE. It's a hack. It's an amateur's crutch. It's a narcissist's mirror. Stop making your readers cry. Make them CARE.
DEATH IS THE ALIEN GOD
Every time someone dies, we hurl ourselves into the task of making their death MEAN something. Death does not belong here. Death is wrong. Death destroys all purpose we have as living, breathing, busy, creating HUMANS. Moyes' portrayal of Will's voluntary suicide as a good thing is a lie, and I will not let that slide. We live before God, and our lives have meaning. To surrender ourselves to the false god of death and annihilation is an abomination and idolatry.
WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN MY FICTION
My characters tend to be bigger-than-life, red-blooded folk, who live coolly, roughly, and often dangerously. Their words are calculated to threaten and push back against anything that tries to impinge on their egos.
but they respect human life
They are not quick to kill. Nor do I craft painful or sad storylines for the sake on getting a rise out of my readers. No, that's absurd, that's abusing the writer's privilege, and it needs to stop.
if you want to improve yourself as a writer, stop leaning on the tear-jerk hack
image via pinterest