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Why haven't they and other not realized this? Why haven't they given their long-term protags a half-way decent lives?
I think its because some people have the good fortune not to have close personal experience with certain types of bad events or that impacted people. Perhaps they were born lucky or perhaps they were born with the ability to not be impacted. So they can experience such things in their imagination and let it go more easily than some of the rest of us.
I have read somewhere that people who live the longest are those that can survive the tragedies that life deals them, whether it be the death of their loved one or other such major hurt.
I never appreciated the "dark" in entertainment, even as a young person. But then very young, in preschool I started experiencing "dark" things. Like when I was 3, my mother was gone for 6 months, a major thing for a 3 year old. And even before that I don't think my mother really bonded with either me or my brother. When she came back after a horrid pregnancy, buying my sister's life with lots of stress and suffering, my sister became her golden child while my brother and I took second place never to recover our "status". My brother being the only son was a notch higher in affection, and, I knew way back in early elementary school that I was "different" from the rest of my family. In fact I believed I had to be adopted, because I was so different.
SO when I read, and I did that a lot because I was not a participant in much of what the family was doing, I loved the happier stories and movies. And my life has continued down the same path. Losing my first love before I was even 21. So many dark things that end up in novels happened to me and my current spouse in real life. I read to relax and get to sleep as well as for the story. Doesn't help to read about things that bring back dark memories.
But for these authors, I bet they have that characteristic that allows things to be dealt with and put away somewhere in the closet of their head. I know that I cannot read Debbie Stabenow, just can't but partly because she weaves in elements of real life events here in Alaska that "remind" those of us who live here. But in person she is a bubbly package of sunshine the few times I've met her.
Diana Gabaldon does terrible things to her characters that take the story elements to dark places, especially with Black Jack, the darkest character I have ever read. In the fan base she is often referred to as "cruel" to her characters, but she balances that with great joys, a lot of comedy, tremendous romantic passages and written words that just plain take your breath away at times. I can read her.
But also her characters are on a lifelong adventure, a dozen characters that live through several decades together as happens with Michner, or Jakes or other writers of popular sprawling series. Her books are really tomes and with that many pages in them she can give her characters time to resolve the issues. Tomes, that's the other element, I guess. I know I loved Jakes' North and South trilogy and there was a lot of dark stuff in them. And I get through Hambly's Benjamin January series, many elements based on real life dark events. But not the kind of events that when I read them take me revisiting any dark places in my real life.
So I agree. Authors should realize we need some part of their protagonist's existence to be "not dark". I want the heroic characters in my reading to be somebody I wouldn't mind spending some time with in real life, chatting over the back fence if they lived next door even. Not everybody needs that much. I do and that's who I choose to spend time with.