Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Unrelenting Teenage Angst"

Over at The Literary Lab today is an interesting discussion about the acceptability of "dark" fiction. The general consensus appears to be that darkness has its place in contemporary fiction right alongside the lighthearted, hopeful pieces.

This post's title is tied into the comment I made in that thread about what I've termed "unrelenting teenage angst," or UTA for short. What is UTA, you might ask?*

UTA is code for the stories where the characters moan about how horrible their lives are, how bad things always happen to them, blah blah blah. These are the books, and you can all probably think of at least one (I won't mention my favorite example, but you should be able to guess), where the hero and/or heroine is a sad sack (think Eeyore) who's Very Depressed about their entire life. Mind you, a story like that is not automatically a UTA candidate. That august classification only goes to the stories where everything around the MC is going well and the only things they talk about are the bad things.

UTA winners (it's not an award you want) are also discovered when you read the book/see the movie and want to reach in and smack some sense into the MC. For sad-sack boys, there's usually the pretty girl who wants to make them happy. Reverse is true for sad-sack girls. But the MC is so depress(ing) that they pay zero attention to said person and continue on their bullet train to Angst-ville.

In my experience, UTA is a casualty of sloppy writing and unrealized characters (at least from my perspective). Because you can write someone who's depressed and doesn't see the good in life, and could make it work wonderfully. But, and this is just my opinion, you need some happiness to break up the clouds. That's the way to make a good story. Not with UTA.

* It actually doesn't matter if you ask or not. I'm still going to explain it.

10 comments:

Bane of Anubis said...

Too true... Angst, IMO, is easy to write, but hard to write well (particularly b/c it's hard to know when to cut it off/lighten it up.)

Personally, I like dark fiction (not necessarily in the same context), but only b/c of the contrast to the light at the end of the tunnel.

L. T. Host said...

Angst is a sure turn-off if you don't care about the character, same as real life. It really has to be used with stellar characterization, I suppose, in order to work at all.

Natalie said...

Yeah, I'm not a fan of angsty characters. But I might be the other extreme. I like fun stories. I like happy endings. I read to get AWAY from whiney voices and depressing situations.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think angst has its appropriate place in fiction, but it shouldn't be the defining characteristic of the protagonist. Who wants to read that? But you can work with angst, make it add another dimension to the character, but only for a short time.

Renee Pinner said...

Is it coincidence that UTA acronymn is dangerously close to UTI? Equally irritating, eh?

Davin Malasarn said...

Nice post. For me, angst is a mark of inexperience. Writing tends to make people more sympathetic, more clear-visioned. UTA is the result of being self-centered.

Susan R. Mills said...

Great post! I totally agree with you. I can think of a few books that fall into this category, and I would not recommend them.

Adam Heine said...

"That august classification only goes to the stories where everything around the MC is going well and the only things they talk about are the bad things."

That sounds like every teenager I know.

Oh, crap. I sound just like my dad!

MattDel said...

Renee --

There's also UST -- Unresolved Sexual Tension, if we continue down to Acronym-ville. Of course, UST tends to be entertaining more than irritating (depending on the story/author's prowess of course).

keziarhh said...

Nice depth you have.