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Do you remember the first book that made you cry? Or maybe the last one?
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I don’t actually remember the first book that elicited tears, but I would wager that it is Lord of the Rings, possibly The Hobbit. There was so much to worry about in that book, along with a bevy of characters to in which to fall in love. How could such a tome possibly be the first book to make me cry? The reading level is advanced. It’s something you read in your teens, usually. Well, my mother read them when I was in utero. That probably explains why I became a writer of dark fantasy.
Crying while reading feels quite cathartic. Same with film. However, I’ve gone through such a long rough period in my life that tears don’t bring the same release any longer. I just feel further frustrated and angered. When you don’t find things to offset the down turns–those small or large wins–you just get increasingly disaffected. This is why self-care is so very important. I’ll let you know if I ever find that kind of release again, because so far no amount of self-care has made tears bring relief again. Maybe that is just my depression or anxiety, could be the PTSD. Either way, let’s get back to the topic, because those thoughts could fill a book of there own!
My earliest book memory is the Nazgûl. They’ve haunted my memory for decades. Their description in Tolkien‘s books is quite clear. Not sure how a fetus is able to understand! But I have that image ingrained in my brain. Let me tell you, it’s close to what the films created, too. Uncomfortably close.
Who didn’t cry at the Samwise‘s desperate speech to Mr. Frodo? Or the moment Shelob stung. Did you not worry over Thorin and his band? I was so moved, too, by the very existence of elves (definitely read The Silmarillion). Good god, I cried when Thorin died at the end–when I read the books with my own eyes in my teens. I know this must have made me cry, because no doubt it saddened my mother and I understood those feelings somehow. Those books were like revisiting an old friend. Every feeling felt so familiar. There are plenty of studies on reading aloud to a fetus, but I don’t know if they’ve studied the affects of just reading (not aloud). Could this be why my empathy is so strong?
I had the Rankin-Bass feature poster for The Hobbit on my nursery wall, too. This lead to me imagining God looking like Gandalf. You can’t change my mind, either. That’s it. That’s what I see. Sir Ian McKellen makes a great God-I mean Gandalf.
Flipping the question a bit, I can tell you the first show that made me cry. It was Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. I wailed when his mother died in the first few moments of the tale. So tragic to me to this day. Terrible story to tell small children. I much more enjoy the story these days, especially Tilly. She’s fantastic. I also adore Donkeys. There are plans to have a parcel on which to keep one or two in retirement. Have you met a finer animal?
I somewhat recall crying over Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web in later childhood well after Tolkien and Nestor. Television and movies always had more of an affect of bringing on tears. As mentioned before, I am highly empathetic. Visuals only make that stronger. This is not to say that the emoted affects me every time when watching a film. In many cases it misses the mark–especially on modern television shows. What I think is the blockage–the casting people focus too much on the attractiveness of the actor over their ability to act. Shows have increasingly plasticized, as I say. It’s too fake for me to ping an emotion from.
Much like film and television, books have taken a turn away from authenticity. Or, maybe, I am just far more critical of these art forms being both a student of and a professional in them. The things for which I have been criticized (both negatively or positively) by gatekeepers of the jobs have been adapted into my own assessment of other works. They should be more careful, am I right?
Criticism is used to improve your work. Yet, they accept subpar work and produce mediocre products, but pass on others that would make better products for apparently frivolous reasons. When books I try to read don’t meet the standards of agents and managers, producers and publishers, they certainly no longer meet my standards. Remember, I am expected not to write in that manner, because it is viewed undesirable by the larger professional industry. Or was that just smoke up my backside? You bet it is upsetting when I find a big publishing house book, larger budget show, or a film that has weak efforts behind it, issues greater than what I’ve been denied over. And so many of them do!
I’m so very tired of watching television that is formulaic, where the characters vacillate over every decision and thought, and also drum up needless, if not foolish, drama to extend the season. I can write out an outline for you about how every show will inevitably reach a parting of ways on the characters where they become contentious over something no one in real life would actually fight. It is refreshing, for instance, to see Hawkeye‘s wife be so deeply supportive of him.
It was tiresome to deal with Oliver Queen and Felicity fighting over everything under the sun, including his not telling her about a son he didn’t know he had and later was hiding from someone attempting to kill him. I mean honestly, Felicity became so pathetic and selfish in each instance. That was not the character she started out as, nor why so many folks loved her. This nearly brought me to tears! And don’t get me started on Legends of Tomorrow. (Tears ensue.)
Tears elicited from a written work are interesting tests of empathy and understanding. They also suggest the humanity in the person who wrote those words, creating a bridge not only to them but to others including the actors on the screen, those behind the scenes, and members of the audience. Written works create connection, and that is beautiful. I swear I am about to tear up about it. The beauty in that alone overwhelms.
Do you ever cry when something works out beautifully in the end for a book? I do. Happy endings make me cry (like some guests do at weddings). Whether it is my longing for better days and greater successes, or my empathy, I think it is more about the connection made from building that story and its characters over hours and hours of quiet reading.
Maybe I need to get to reading more again. Maybe that is the key to finding my cathartic tears again.
Click on the links below to find out what books first made our other writers cry…
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