Angsty anbout Angst; A to Z Challenge

Angst can be a wonderful story element, or it can be the downfall of a story. Since so many of us feel some level of angst while writing, or forced to stop writing to do something silly like cook, it is no surprise that angst makes its way into so many plots. Angst can be necessary to get a character thinking, or moving, and hence it is important. However, I do not want to talk about angst gone right, because to fully understand how it should be used, we need to look at instances where it has gone wrong, and how to avoid falling into the same traps.

I think angst often gets over or misused in romance and young adult novels, because these are moments that require heavy angst levels, right? Wrong. Yes, unrequited love, the horrors of adolescence, and joys of schooling do cause high levels of stress. I know my teen years were far from my favorite. However, no one needs to read a book that is at least held half in one characters head as they over analyze and doubt everything about themselves. There are situations where heavy angst does work, but it is far too common to go over the invisible line in the sand that I have no map to.

How many times have you read a book and gotten so annoyed at one character's angst about how the love interest, appearance, weight, alignment of the stars, or other obsession will ruin their lives. It often makes me want to throw my book, or whatever I am reading a digital book on, across the room. One much beloved teen novel comes to mind, where one little miss spends the hole series mooning over a guy. (I will admit that I loved the whole series when I first read it, but after all the hype and looking back I just want to shake her and somehow unread the last book.) Angst should be a tool to motivate the characters. It can be used to get them thinking so that their thoughts are shared with the reader, but some action should follow the thoughts.

Stories about real women; women with curves, glasses, social status, or other assumed imperfection often run into the same issue. There is so much inner dialogue, or even external dialogue bemoaning the issue at hand that I just want to scream at them to do something about it. While there are some issues that hold no solution, there are still things they could do to improve their lives or at least their confidence. Again, I want to kick the characters and tell them to just get over it already and move on.

I have no magic bullet to fix this common issue. However, my rule of thumb is that if a conversation with a friend, sibling, coworker, or even your own internal dialogue followed the same path at that is laid out in the story makes you slap happy then there is too much angst.

And so ends my angsty rant about angst in fiction.
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