I’m drowning in salt water.
In everything I’ve read these days, I’ve come across tears. Sad tears, happy tears, sentimental tears. Single tears, rivers of tears. Dampness, wetness. Welling, trailing, trickling down. Men, women, heroes, heroines, protagonists, antagonists — they all cry over the least little things.
And as I read, I think: really? Some of the things they’re crying over aren’t worth it. Sometimes the tears are melodramatic. Frequently, the character is overreacting. But even when tears are warranted, I don’t like reading about them primarily because I’m tired of reading about them.
This sounds odd coming from a woman who can cry at commercials, but I can’t relate to characters who cry all the time. When a writer tells me for the umpteenth time that the heroine has shed a tear, I’m turned off–much sooner if it’s a male character. Reading about tears doesn’t bring emotion out of me.
So, what am I saying? I’m against tear-inducing emotions in novels? No. Not at all.
What I wish is that authors express these emotions with something besides tears. Poignancy trumps characters’ tears every time. When an author writes something poignant, chances are the reader will cry, which is the point.
Let me give some examples:
A. He looked at her picture with tears in his eyes.
B. He rubbed his thumb across her image. “Oh, Sadie girl. I wish you were here.”
A. She was so proud of her son, she couldn’t help but cry.
B. She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “You make me proud, son.”
C. She playfully slugged his shoulder. “Ya done good, kid.”
A. As she watched the girl relieve her grief with a display of anger, her eyes welled.
B. She stilled the girl’s angry hands and held her until the shuddering stopped.
A. A single tear trickled down his cheek as he realized this was the first anniversary of her death.
B. He caressed her housecoat, still hanging from its hook. She’d been gone a year. He should put it away, but it still held her scent.
These may not be the best examples — it’s six-thirty, and they’re off the top of my caffeine-deprived head. But you get the point.
Another way of putting all this is “show, don’t tell.” Telling your reader that your character is crying violates this all important command, but it’s also cliche, which violates the command not to be. It’s also lazy.
Strive for originality.
And hand me a towel.