Tear Jerker   3 comments

Do you remember the first book that made you cry? Or maybe the last one?

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First Weep Fest

I admit I am not the most sentimental of women. I don’t read romances and traditional tearjerkers rarely make my TRB list. I’ve never, for example, read The Notebook, although I did watch the movie with my daughter…and didn’t cry.

So, when I looked back at my reading history, I was surprised to find a “first” book that made me cry. There might have been an earlier book, but I can’t remember the title, but when I was in 6th grade, I read The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle. There’s a scene toward the end when the character Dave must identify his father’s body. Dave’s 17 years old, lived through riots, has been abandoned by his mother as a small child, and doesn’t get along with his father, but he cries over his body. I didn’t like the character of Mr. Davidson, but I inexplicably found myself crying right along with Dave. Why?

Well, it wasn’t that I loved the character. Dave’s father wasn’t a good man and even at the tender age of 12, I knew he was an odious character — a drunk who collaborated with the forces of evil and nearly cost his son his own life. I was frankly embarrassed to find myself crying over this character’s death. I couldn’t explain it to myself and that felt wrong as if my psyche somehow betrayed me.

It was only when I reread the book a few years later with a little bit more maturity that I understood why I cried. It had nothing to do with Mr. Davidson and everything to do with Dave. I put myself into his skin and I felt his grief and it expressed itself in my tears. I’ve had that happen with a few books over the years. When I read Ordinary People, I cried with the main character as he remembered his brother’s death. When I read Berries Goodman, I shed a tear when his friend Sydney was so cruelly injured, again because I felt what Berries felt. As I’ve gotten older and gathered my own scar tissue, I cry less, but that feeling in the throat that I might is still there.

Most Recent Book to Make Me Cry?

One of my own. This happens to me when I’m writing certain scenes — that choked-up feeling of grief shared with my character. In the series What If Wasn’t, Peter’s drunken actions led to the death of his sister at the end of Dumpster Fire. The scene is viewed from his friend Ben’s perspective and his grief not just for the death of this young girl who he didn’t particularly like and yet had known since his young childhood, but also for what he knows is the loss of his friendship with Peter. They’ve struggled with their friendship in the past, but this will end it. I cried my way through writing it because I also disliked the character of Alyse, but I felt for Ben and Peter on a deeply visceral level.

Now I’m writing Pocketful of Rocks, the third book in the series, and having a tough time getting through scenes where Peter tries to cope with his sister’s death and his own guilt and grief. As he puts it in one scene —

Nobody wants to grieve with the murderer, not even me. I feel so guilty that I feel sorry for myself because she’s gone. It doesn’t align with hating myself and accepting responsibility for what I did as if I somehow haven’t earned the right to grieve. I loved her and I miss her and if I hadn’t killed her I could grieve. The counselors say I need to grieve to get to a healthy place, but nobody cares about my pain and rightfully, I shouldn’t share it. Grieving for her becomes grieving for myself and I haven’t earned that. I’ll never be able to earn that. My grief is my burden to carry and I will carry it alone because nobody else owns it. It’s all on me and it’s mine alone to bear.

Pocketful of Rocks – work in progress, due out later this year

I ugly cried through about three scenes at different stages of the rough draft, feeling what Peter feels and looking for redemption in the pages. I figure if I’m crying while writing it, readers will feel that pain when they read it.

I wonder if the authors who have caused me to cry over the years ago felt the tears burning their eyes as they wrote those scenes.

Posted January 10, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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3 responses to “Tear Jerker

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  1. Yes, we grow older and as you say, develop our own scar tissue. Sometimes this unfortunately causes ‘compassion fatigue’.

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  2. It’s strange how revisiting something with older eyes can give a different result, emotionally speaking. As if age has given the words (or your emotions) another meaning.

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  3. We have to be able to empathize with a character to understand their emotion. I can’t see me crying over most modern-day romances because they are too cookie-cutter and don’t engage my sympathy.

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