You see it everywhere in the writing community. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, and prints, in tweets and bios, etc. People say they love destroying feels, they drink the tears of their readers, they live for making their readers cry, and many other forms of the same idea.
I don’t think it is said in a way that is meant to be malicious or uncaring. But I think it is possible that it is said without giving thought to the future implications for both reader and author.
I want to take my job seriously
I love writing, and if I am a professional author I need to be considerate of my audience, who enables me to do what I love. Do some people like having their feels destroyed? Yes. Double yes. It’s not always bad. But the thing that separates a good writer from a manipulative writer is how they do it. If you’ve read enough, nine times out of ten you can tell when a writer is doing something just to create “feels” and not to serve the story. And that’s what I call unprofessional writing.
I understand my words have power
Let me tell you a good thing and a bad thing. Writers have lots of power. (Congratulations! You may now consider those plans to take over the world!) However, that means you have a responsibility to use that power well. You have a chance to influence your audience (which could be the world) for good or for bad, and that is not something anyone should take flippantly. When a reader picks up your book, it is always an honor. They are giving you a piece of their time, to hear your thoughts and see things through your eyes, and while we can get used to this, we shouldn’t forget that it is a privilege they are giving us.
I have known enough sorrow to have empathy
Do my characters die? Oh yes. Sometimes they die and they die bravely, they die too young, they die when they are the last people you want to see die. Sometimes they die because I have to work through grief of my own.
But that does not mean I enjoy it. Every death hurts. It should hurt. I have lost people I’ve known and loved, and that has taught me to be careful not to take character deaths for granted in a story. I will not write a death if it does not further the story, is not required for realism, or does not have a glimmer of hope. And I will definitely not go into unnecessary detail just for effect.
The story is paramount
The story must be served first. Even if it is sure to bring down a hailstorm of feels, if you put it in there with no other purpose, I promise you, you have shot yourself in the foot.
It’s all about the attitude
In media nowadays, I think human life has been cheapened. People die simply to make the story more interesting, the feels deeper, the stakes personally higher for the protagonist. Few people seem to care about the victim in a murder mystery—it’s all about the brains of the detective. In an adventure book all sorts of minor and secondary characters die just to plump up the action and make you fear more for what the antagonist will do to protagonist. Writers all around mwahaha about the characters they are going to kill and throw around terms like ‘I killed a character today’ or ‘I kill most of my characters’ with little thought.
My problem is not with death in stories. We writers tackle hard subjects that require it, and I think we should. My problem is with an increasingly callous attitude towards death—something that should never be taken lightly because it doesn’t stop with the authors. If the authors become callous, so will the readers. You see it in effect already. Our culture is incredibly callous towards death. Just look at the kind of media that is being consumed wholesale.
We authors have the ability to make or break our culture with what we write, how we write, and what attitude we choose to write with.
And that’s something we can’t just joke about.