BSV Forum - General - Recommendations

Angst vs Dark

Mar 08 2007 11:53 pm   #1slaymesoftly

Angst nominations

As long as I’m on the subject of incorrectly entered stories, I will admit to a certain amount of confusion about the angst category.  To me, an angsty story is one that brings a tear to my eye, a lump to my throat or perhaps a stifled sob. Not to be confused with a story in which the characters shed copious tears at the drop of a hat.  Or one in which the author feels compelled to point out how sad the characters are every few minutes - in case the incredibly stupid reader hasn’t noticed that terribly sad things are happening to them…  (Okay, sorry. Different rant. Unless you are inclined to nominate fics in the angst category based on the amount of tears shed by the characters rather than those inspired in the reader- in which case, this rant’s for you.)

Angst can be situational – meaning the events in the story are sad in and of themselves.  Spike dies at the end.  Yep, pretty sad, that.  Situational angst is a good start, but if the characters aren’t experiencing it in a believable fashion, chances are it will not move the reader; and that, after all, is what we are looking for in an angsty story.  We want it to move us. The very worst crime an author can commit when writing a sad story is to do it in such a way that the reader is getting bored and irritated with the characters.

An angsty story doesn’t need to have a sad ending – in fact, some of the best ones out there have an eventual happy ending.  But during the course of the story the characters jump through some major hoops and over some large hurdles to get to that happy ending, painfully dragging the involved reader right along with them. Conversely, the story may be fluffy and cheerful all the way through, only to blindside the reader with the death of a major character.  Either one works for me as angst, as long as I am feeling it myself- not being told how bad the characters feel.

Where I admit to getting confused, is when a fic that is dark (torture, rape, whatever) is entered as angst.  Now, it may be angsty, and therefore, very well-placed.  Without question, if these things are happening, it’s pretty sad for whomever they are happening to.  However, not all dark fics are full of angst.  Many fics in which Buffy is turned, for instance, have her falling quite happily into her new life as a demon.  And many truly dark fics might make the reader shudder or cringe or get queasy – all without stimulating much in the way of emotional pain.  I understand the overlap that naturally exists between the two, but as far as nominating one in a particular category, I think this is another case where the nominator needs to really assess the story and decide where it would have the best chance for success.

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