When Writing Makes You Cry

I never used to cry for emotional reasons.  Physical pain, yes.  Anger and frustration, yes.  Emotional scene in a movie or a book?  Forget it.

I will admit that I got a little misty-eyed the first time I saw The Lion King.  Mufasa was dead and Simba was trying so hard to wake him up.  That’s the first time I can remember tearing up for an empathetic emotional reason.  Other than that, though, there was nothing for a very long time.

I know exactly when that changed: Washington, D.C.  My parents and I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I walked through the whole museum, soaking in the info, coming to realizations about the lives lost, generally serious and sad, but not crying.  It wasn’t until I walked into the Hall of Remembrance, a huge space where you can simply reflect or light candles, that everything hit me.  I started bawling.  I think it scared my Mom a little bit.

Ever since then, it takes very little to get me to tear up.  Paper cranes sent from Japanese schoolchildren on display at Ground Zero.  Sweeping, emotional music at key places in movies or musicals.  And, apparently, writing the end of Dragon.

HUGE Spoiler Alert – if you plan to read Dragon and want to be surprised, STOP READING THIS POST.

Are you sure you want to continue?  The important point here is that I have spent a lot of time getting teary-eyed while finishing the novel.  I’m serious about the spoiler alert, though.  Now is the time to stop reading.  This is your last warning.

One of the main characters of Dragon dies at the end.  It’s not an expected, sickly, “we’re glad he’s in a better place” kind of death, either.  It’s a violent death in the midst of a huge fight with emotional ripples through nearly all of the other characters.  I knew that he was going to have to die last year; in fact, I originally wrote the scene almost a year ago.  Re-reading it made me cry again; I’m not looking forward to revising it.  On top of that, I got to write the scene where the primary character is mourning for him.  Yay!  Another chance to cry!

I know that I am especially attached to my characters, but I try to write them so the reader will be connected to them as well.  I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy the response I get from my readers about these scenes.  He had to die for the book to resolve properly, but I don’t think most people will appreciate that fact.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. It's Me
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 10:02:30

    That is so funny, because the first time I remember struggling not to cry at a movie was that same scene in The Lion King. Some of my other friends and I have had this conversation before, about how when we were younger we never cried and now it seems like we can tear up at the drop of a hat. For me, I still am embarrassed about crying in public, so I have a coping mechanism. That would be…innapropriate comic relief. When I visited the holocaust museum in D.C. last year, I ended up (very quietly)making a lot of ‘what should I buy from the gift shop’ jokes. Specifically, about coffee mugs with pictures of a pile of shoes on them. I feel bad about that, but if I let even one tear squeak out, there is no going back. Haha.


  2. deshipley
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 17:13:36

    I didn’t start crying at Disney movies until fairly recently. Death, beautifully romantic moments… didn’t do a thing for me.
    But there was that radio drama episode where someone didn’t get to say goodbye to his friend-who-was-leaving-indefinitely before the plane took off. Child Me walked stiffly into my parents’ room, lay on the floor, and wept.
    And that one cartoon where a boy ran alongside his friend-who-was-leaving-indefinitely’s car, saying goodbye until after the car had quickly outpaced him. Child Me sat there and sobbed.
    That used to be the pattern. Now it could pretty much be anything, if I’m in empathetic mode. Goodness, I was leaking tears this morning because someone had inadvertantly hurt one of my characters’ feelings by suggesting that he was too naive to understand the person’s hatred of Chiuahua’s. (One doesn’t have to make this stuff up.)


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