Giving Hope in Fiction

One of the points I touched on in my commencement address in June was on the concept of hope in genre fiction. This may seem like a stretch for some stories, but even in stories like horror, I believe there is an element of hope. Briefly, I will list the mainstream genres of fiction and then how I believe hope ties into that genre.

Science Fiction: I feel part of the hope for me in science fiction is that we’ll reach those levels of technology. However, as a large part of science fiction is to warn not only of the dangers of misusing the technology, the hope is in the message of warning. We hope to avoid the tragedy portrayed in the science fiction story.
Fantasy: In many ways, fantasy holds the same hopes as science fiction. We can see horrible situations to combat the wonder and beauty in the fantasy realm. We hold to our hope the characters will find within themselves what they need to overcome their obstacles, and in turn, we hope we can find those same strengths within ourselves.
Romance: We hope the characters will find the passion and love they seek and that we will find our love and passion in our life.
Mystery/Thriller: A hope that truth and justice will conquer all. We hope for the same justice we would expect in the real world.
Horror: a friend and fellow Seton Hill grad student, Ryan Demos, did a presentation during our time at Seton Hill on horror. Horror is an emotion so powerful it has its own genre. Where is the hope in horror? This seems obvious to me. I hope the horrors in the story are not real or that they will be eliminated quickly so I can get back to normal.
Young Adult: my YA author friends from Seton Hill would drop a literal ton of books on my head if I didn’t include YA in this list. I used to think of YA as only the younger version of existing genres. That would be YA fantasy or something like that, but they are examples of subgenres of YA. (I will have to get one of them on the blog to go into more detail on the genre.) Regardless, I think the hope found in YA of any kind is in learning to deal with the pressures of a situation on top of growing up and everything that part of life entails.

I could have gone into more detail regarding each genre, but for the purposes of this entry, I think conveying hope in some form is needed more in fiction. The Time Heist episode of Doctor Who is able to show this as well, for example. We get a rather cynical accusation for why the Doctor calls himself such, which I enjoyed given my last post. The assertion is the Doctor calls himself so because of his professional detachment. I can see why people would feel this way with him, but I think it would be more true with the War Doctor or just brief moments through various regenerations. In the end, the episode yesterday was about hope. The characters acted with a hope everything the architect did would work out for them, and The Teller, in the end was hoping to be reunited with its kind. I’m also a fan of the show Castle, we all hope everything will be okay with the characters given the season finale last spring. Although, logic dictates as the show is called Castle, it will be okay. However, even if Castle is found alive and well in the season premiere, will they resume the wedding? Or are they going to delay the wedding some more so the show can go on with more relationship strain. Here I am curious regarding how other viewers will weigh in in the subject. Do they hope for the wedding to happen sooner or later?
As an author, I have written my fair share of scary scenes or troubling situations. I always feel the responsibility to bring an element of hope into my writing. A large portion of this is because I got into writing because of the adventures other writers took me on in their books. However, further along in my career, I understand there is a subtle art to drawing out what readers want in a book. Now, think of doing a series. Those elements of hope for the characters will need to be drawn out even further. It’s basically the point of the Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan don’t get the peace and quiet they deserve because something always gets in the way be it magic, politics, or tyrants. Whether a series or a one off book, I doubt readers would continue to come back to your work if you don’t present some element of hope in your story.


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