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Tone/Mood and Content Clashes without attempts at satire. (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
Lately my fellow critique groupers and some short clips posted by people on another site (mostly by those younger than myself) seem to be writing in this light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek tone about things that are really serious— like the stroke or heart attack and subsequent difficulty with long illness of a father. Or like graphic violence.

I don’t really appreciate a jaunty tone with these subjects and I can’t see a reason for it. It doesn’t make me read deeper. The heart-ache where it should be seems to not be allowed. The “true-crime” creepy-mysterious feeling is completely gone. I know I’m just one person, but It keeps me thinking that the author is somewhat misguided or crazy or enjoying the scenes way too much. It basically never lets me forget that this is a story. It never lets me feel the full weight of what is going on and I’m not sure of the purpose of that. If you want to expose a reader to the trials of dealing with dad after a stroke, then let me take it all onto my shoulders. I don’t need you trying to tell me it’s amusing— if it’s funny then show me in what ways it truly is funny (since I’m sure there is real humor to be found). Don’t tell me your bouncy mood as you lift half the emotional load off by keeping it light. If you want me to see this subject, let me deal with my own reaction.

Okay, so I guess objectively the “interference” is what I could say bothers me the most, but I admit I always get bothered by things that don’t call things what they are. If my pet is dead don’t tell me it left to go to a farm. If something is rotting don’t say the date expires next week—unless you want satire or parody. But these stories were not meant to be satire or parody but are somehow written as light-hearted serious stories about illness and murder. They aren’t going far enough into satire and they aren’t creating a story where the reader can really experience the situation, imo. It’s like the author is in front of a dead body saying “Look! I can skip!” all the time.

Now I know these are not published and polished stories and I will hopefully find ways to address my not-so-humble but hopefully self-aware opinion with each author, but I can’t in that setting, address it as a trend. But I think there might be a trend??? Or has this been true for rookie writing time out of mind? I kind of hope yes will be the answer.

I think clashes in tone/mood with really excellent writing can be strategically amazing to show poor character traits maybe or to actually really be humorous or really tragic. Some really well written stories can move in and out between satire and tragedy with so much heart, but does anyone think this in-between weirdness might be a trend? Anyone know what is going on? Anyone else’s opinions? Actually, I might have my conclusion by just writing this all out… it’s probably just writers thinking they have to create more interest or voice about things that are inherently interesting. But you don’t have to paint a lily or put make-up on a baby to make them more interesting. Of course, I probably do something really off like this myself as we rookies have to start somewhere and hopefully I can get help with things I am misguided on… I will tell them it’s a trend.


(Yes,I finally got a critique group and despite this post I’m very much enjoying it but also learning what I can and cannot get from a critique group….and I am luckily not in charge-yay!)
 
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Just out of curiosity, since this is a critique group your referring to, did you ask the intent of the pieces you read? I'm guessing they're trying to go for macabre humor and maybe are just missing the mark (youtube has people thinking random = funny.) Personally, I love writing about serious topics with an irreverent tone. I actually have a short story from a creative writing class I took a few years ago called Bridges, Peaches, and Casual Suicide. It's basically a comedy sketch about a suicidal woman about to throw herself off a bridge, and a twelve-year-old boy trying to sell her a peach. It wasn't meant to be a thoughtful look into the mind of depression, it was just some light-hearted humor about a frighteningly real topic. Some of the jokes landed, some didn't, but everyone seemed to get that it was never my intent to create something truly thought provoking.

Obviously, I haven't read whatever piece you're referring to in your post, but maybe they were trying to go for the laughs and didn't quite get there. Either way, if they are younger writers, they'll probably have issues with whatever tone they're trying to go for.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Lately my fellow critique groupers and some short clips posted by people on another site (mostly by those younger than myself) seem to be writing in this light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek tone about things that are really serious— like the stroke or heart attack and subsequent difficulty with long illness of a father. Or like graphic violence.

Now I know these are not published and polished stories and I will hopefully find ways to address my not-so-humble but hopefully self-aware opinion with each author, but I can’t in that setting, address it as a trend. But I think there might be a trend??? Or has this been true for rookie writing time out of mind? I kind of hope yes will be the answer.
Hi @Llyralen.
One of the things that I have found about 'trends' are that they can be used to antogonise/offend/shock/scaremonger to build conversations, generate interest and be used as a well known marketing tool. People can say it is wrong and distasteful (certainly in your case) but in the younger minds it is very much a 'sink or swim' mentality - Go for glory or die trying.

In the media, in every corner of the news and social platforms, they are pushing the boundaries of acceptance to the point where there is no 'taboo.'

Like @RadicalDreamerPG said, a lot depends on intent and purpose. Maybe it was a writing experiment gone wrong, or the inexperienced attempting to talk about sensitive subjects, but in either case I find satire in these topics uncomfortable, they can be really hit and miss and if they miss, they can hurt and damage those who are already suffering.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Just out of curiosity, since this is a critique group your referring to, did you ask the intent of the pieces you read? I'm guessing they're trying to go for macabre humor and maybe are just missing the mark (youtube has people thinking random = funny.) Personally, I love writing about serious topics with an irreverent tone. I actually have a short story from a creative writing class I took a few years ago called Bridges, Peaches, and Casual Suicide. It's basically a comedy sketch about a suicidal woman about to throw herself off a bridge, and a twelve-year-old boy trying to sell her a peach. It wasn't meant to be a thoughtful look into the mind of depression, it was just some light-hearted humor about a frighteningly real topic. Some of the jokes landed, some didn't, but everyone seemed to get that it was never my intent to create something truly thought provoking.

Obviously, I haven't read whatever piece you're referring to in your post, but maybe they were trying to go for the laughs and didn't quite get there. Either way, if they are younger writers, they'll probably have issues with whatever tone they're trying to go for.
Thank you for engaging on this and providing your observations and thoughts. Intent would be a good thing for me to ask.

When you read pieces by other people that are like you describe that take an irreverent tone to frighteningly real stuff… what is it that you take away from it? What makes you like it? Would you say the pieces you like go all the way to satire ( I’m wondering if people are trying for satire but missing? It doesn’t seem like it, though.) or no?

Satire done right can be like JoJo Rabbit that makes fun of the right things for a purpose and reaffirms the kind brave and compassionate. I’d put the recent Borat in this camp— one of the bravest films and funniest films ever, exposing the dark underbelly of the USA and giving me the longest 20 minutes of laughs I’ve ever had. The Simpsons and Austen Powers are just pure satire for laughs and that’s all great for me.

But this is not that. Can you think of any film or book that does this well? Maybe Brigerton— maybe! But I think if it didn’t have the Regency Rom-Com tropes and power behind it, I would think it wouldn’t work? Maybe just because me—I—want to fast forward the annoying narration? I don’t know! It doesn’t subvert the genre… it just adds this kind of unprovoked haughtiness and sass in the narration? But without satire. Actually I haven’t read the books, I’m just going off of the show. But are these kind of half-tones what we are going for?

This IS interesting, btw!

The last story was blithe about a horribly controlling mother.

This week’s story is a random-ish (they try) and thriller-toned kind of take on watching a father and family struggle after a stroke. I think It might have been his real experience. I would rather have an authentic tone and find the authentic humor and love in it. It seems like the author is trying to distract from what’s real or thinks they need to? Or maybe with current audiences they need to???

I read a smattering of beginnings of crime dramas. One was quite folksy in tone about the blood and murders but it also seemed like a distraction, one was more cutesy like how you would write about a child’s first day of school only about blood and gore that was written in realistic tones. I don’t know— you would think it would work on some level, but none of this works for me.

I don’t remember people writing like this 20 years ago… it seems like a luxury for millennials maybe (honestly?) It’s almost like partially flipping a bird in just the tone but who or what is this a reaction to? There is no one being flipped or targeted. Are we supposed to imagine someone being flirty and teasing or something just randomly? I’m thinking “Be real. I see the mask. Yeah yeah, ha ha, can we talk now?”

I mean, if it’s funny then show me funny… but this is more like faking it until you make it kind of stuff, but I don’t know who the performance is for.

Other than to watch my painful reaction here, what do you think? Is it kind of a half-tone thing? And are these tones working for a certain audience?
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Hi @Llyralen.
One of the things that I have found about 'trends' are that they can be used to antogonise/offend/shock/scaremonger to build conversations, generate interest and be used as a well known marketing tool. People can say it is wrong and distasteful (certainly in your case) but in the younger minds it is very much a 'sink or swim' mentality - Go for glory or die trying.

In the media, in every corner of the news and social platforms, they are pushing the boundaries of acceptance to the point where there is no 'taboo.'

Like @RadicalDreamerPG said, a lot depends on intent and purpose. Maybe it was a writing experiment gone wrong, or the inexperienced attempting to talk about sensitive subjects, but in either case I find satire in these topics uncomfortable, they can be really hit and miss and if they miss, they can hurt and damage those who are already suffering.
This is how I feel about it. Sincerity and authenticity are important to me… I think especially in writing.

When I think about it there are times when certain classics take what I’m calling for lack of a better word, a half-satirical tone about something petty for a page or two is kind of a low-pitched mockery that doesn’t go all the way to satire. (I could point out times that Austen does, like when describing the deceased son, Richard, of Mrs Musgrove and Mrs Musgrove’s wanting to hear about him in Persuasion. There are other times for Austen and I won’t get into it deeper here, but it does bother me.).

The people I’m talking about are probably in their mid to late 30’s. They are good people and serious about writing, and I don’t know? I don’t know if they I will ask about intent tomorrow at the group. I wonder if I am just very behind the trends, but I want to understand the trend better and maybe even make my reaction to it into a story if I feel strongly enough about it. Who knows?
 

KatPC

Senior Member
This is how I feel about it. Sincerity and authenticity are important to me… I think especially in writing.
Maybe this is a style we enjoy rather than a fad that the world is chasing. I often find that 'old' values are lost in the young. Traits like respect, honour, loyalty are simply words and their interpretation of these powerful meanings are held with little value that the developing way of shocking, to create a reaction, is a reflection of a new society we are all entering. I always think it is interesting to know, but it doesn't mean I have to follow.

The people I’m talking about are probably in their mid to late 30’s. They are good people and serious about writing, and I don’t know? I don’t know if they I will ask about intent tomorrow at the group. I wonder if I am just very behind the trends, but I want to understand the trend better and maybe even make my reaction to it into a story if I feel strongly enough about it. Who knows?
It is good to go in with an open mind, to see different viewpoints that way (I believe) you add to knowledge and invariably, add characteristics to characters you can tell in your stories.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
seem to be writing in this light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek tone about things that are really serious
[---]
these stories were not meant to be satire or parody but are somehow written as light-hearted serious stories about illness and murder. They aren’t going far enough into satire and they aren’t creating a story where the reader can really experience the situation [---].

I don’t really appreciate a jaunty tone with these subjects and I can’t see a reason for it. [---] does anyone think this in-between weirdness might be a trend? Anyone know what is going on?

One reason: certain people are afraid of showing genuine emotions because it makes them vulnerable and exposes them to potential ridicule. That's why they try to pretend they don't mean it seriously.

Another reason: some people are afraid that if they describe horrible things realistically, then some hysterical activist can accuse them of holding such things for normal or even justifying them. That's why they choose an unserious writing style, so that they can answer potential criticism with: "Relax, I didn't mean it seriously."

Yet another reason: some people actually take horrible things light-heartedly. Example: once upon a time in another forum, someone posted the beginning of the first chapter of his novel. The first two (as I believe to remember) sentences described quite realistically and horribly the protagonist's despair for having an incurable disease. Another user asked if the novel was supposed to be serious or parody, because he had burst out laughing while reading those first sentences which were tearing my heart out.


If you want to expose a reader to the trials of dealing with dad after a stroke, then let me take it all onto my shoulders. I don’t need you trying to tell me it’s amusing

I feel exactly the same way. I try to keep tragic things tragic – although one or another character might comment on it in a light-hearted way afterwards, like soldiers banter after a battle to make each other feel better.

Or this quote from a work of mine:
Ysolda is very excited about the peace as well as relieved to see I'm all right. She says she has been afraid that something might have happened to me. I get a smile out of her by saying: "Oh, don't worry, I still have every chance to get killed."

This was not meant to trivialize the war. It was meant to repel (some of the) other person's (as well as the protagonist's own) fear and worry in a safe and peaceful situation where those emotions didn't seem to serve any useful purpose.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Follow-up on one story and from my perspective:

As I supposed…the thriller part of the story about stroke and illness and how it devastated a family was a way of packaging a very tender real-life personal story. But even the packaging was an imaginative way of dealing with the grief, making it a bit lighter to the author, when you can zoom out of the story to see the author as I was able to do when talking to him. So for me viewing the story inside a story, this then made the author a character (who had a thinly-veiled character in the story, so he now has a double for me, in a way) and a character whose way of dealing with the grief through imagination and writing is interesting to me. I now have a wider lens.


I’m just playing with this idea, but Ian McEwan wrote a more zoomed-out story about an author— he used this idea of writers using imagination and writing to grieve and to change what they want changed in Atonement but he revealed “the truth” later in the book, and it isn’t biographical as far as I know, but he would be a good model for writing the zoomed-out version of the story that includes an author—- hopefully if you’ve read it this makes sense— but McEwan’s tone was always in keeping with the supposed reality in the book. McEwan knows his readers want to explore the full human experience.

I told the author before he revealed that this was based on his family, that I wanted to experience the illness and the grief but these are all just my opinion and thoughts.
 
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