Now let's discuss angst.
The Mary Sue test will ask you:
Does your character have a tragic past? Has he / she been raped, orphaned or abused?
Unfortunately, abuse and rape are two things that a lot of writers do tend to use carelessly. I myself did it when I was going through the "rebellious" stage that I mentioned earlier. Often, as people decide to include more "mature" themes in their writing, "abuse" and "rape" become catchwords. If someone wants to write about a girl who's having trouble at home, he begins the story by briefly mentioning that her father, mother, sibling or mean stepparent abuses her (although in many cases the author never lets us see the said abuser doing anything worse than yelling). If a writer wants a princess to have a reason to rebel against her wealthy, overprotective parents, he will explain that they're about to force or coerce her into an arranged marriage. And as a rule, if a man wants to harm a girl, he always rapes or tries to rape her. If a writer is introducing an OC into a fanfiction and needs a good way to give her conflict before she finds happiness, she'll arrange some way for the character to get raped or to have gotten raped in the past. If a pretty girl passes a group of boys who are on the enemy side, its a given that there will be rape or attempted rape. Rape, rape, rape. Come on, fellow writers, can't we think of anything more creative that could happen to a character? If we want our characters to get hurt, shouldn't we at least try to be creative about how they get hurt?
Believe me, if you really want to write about a character experiencing something like rape, you'llhave to do a tremendous amount of research. Even if you aren't going to include all of the details of rape experience in your story, you still need to do all of the research. Why? Because no matter how much, or how little, detail a story may contain about a particular subject, readers have X-ray vision - they can almost always tell whether or not the story's author is well-informed.
Now, why else should you do the research about any traumatizing experience you may want to write about? Because, if you neglect to do so, there's a possibility that the scene you're attempting to write will turn out to be an angst scene.
Angst comes about when an author, usually trying to describe a character's reaction to a misfortune or another experience, puts far too much emphasis on:
A. The character
B. The character's emotions or feelings about whatever happened
C. How it affects that character
D. A certain aspect of the character's emotions or feelings about it
and usually does not put enough emphasis on the other important things.
Let me give an example of Angst category A.
A girl is raped. We get few or no details on how it happened. We may or may not be told who raped her. We may or may not be told why the person raped her. We are told that the girl is miserable, sad and depressed. Later on, she will probably meet a kindhearted boy; her experience may or may not cause her to mistrust him in the beginning. (If she does mistrust him, we're told about this mistrust, but not really shown. She may display this mistrust by being aloof with the boy, or by being rude, cold or nasty toward him if she feels that he's getting too close, or feels that something he said has hit a sore spot.) But, regardless of all of this, its inevitable and obvious that the boy and the girl will end up in love, whether its because they're forced to work together on some mission and eventually get to know one another, or whether its because the girl just feels drawn to the boy - and this may happen even if she "mistrusts" him.
She may keep her awful experience a secret from him, up to a certain point in the story, and then reveal it to him. Or, she may immediately sense that he's kindhearted and that she can tell him anything, and pours out her heart to him. If she keeps her experience a secret - temporarily or permanently - she may harangue the boy throughout the story by doing and / or saying things that imply that she's had a tragic past - telling him "You don't know me, " "You don't know my past", or getting angry, yelling at him or giving him the cold shoulder for asking a certain question or making a certain remark, while the boy has no way of knowing it would offend her. (Talk about immaturity! )
But the thing is, if the girl initially "mistrusts" him or keeps aloof from him, the author gives us no real reasonwhy she should become close to him. She just does. And if the girl trusts him immediately, we're given no real reason why - except that he's" nice" or "kindhearted." Under ordinary circumstances, this might be okay, but the experience of having been raped is supposed to be creating a conflict for the girl - something that causes her to need comforting, or need someone to confide in and to trust. We see how miserable she is, but we don't see her experience presenting any real obstacle between her and her happiness. Very little detail is given on the rape experience and how it affected her. We read a lot about the girl - about how miserable she is - and very little about the cause of her misery. Its angst - angst that focuses on the character, not the experience hat the character is supposed to have undergone.
In the next chapter, we'll discuss the other types of angst, and throughout this essay, I'll point out examples of angst in every aspect of Mary Sueism that I describe.
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