I am of the opinion that the best and most effective stories need a few truly sad moments. I don't mean the dainty kind of sadness with a sigh and a single tear. What I'm talking about is a soul-crushing moment of hopeless despair, where we peer into the void. Work a few of those into your story, and people won't soon forget the experience of reading it.
For example, there's the testimony of the ghost from The Vale of Ghosts:
“It happens to all of us. As time passes, everything we ever knew or saw or heard, every person we ever touched or loved, they all drop away, leaving us with nothing but the vague and choking need to escape.”
That's not nearly the saddest moment in the book. Of course, what affects the writer deepest might not affect readers in the same way. For me personally, as I wrote the thing, the saddest moment comes in the basement of a cathedral in Tilieth. Not to give too much away, but it involves our protagonist making an emotional confession.
The bleakest thing I ever wrote is Children of the Mechanism. It's got a few of those horrible, hopeless moments, along with some truly wretched, miserable little characters who suffer far more than they deserve to.
The sad moments start early on. I'd be curious to know which bleak moment of despair hits readers the hardest. For me as the writer, it involved the character of Hen and her tragic interactions with a girl named Tag. And this thought:
I told you to wait, one thought resounding over and over. I told you to wait.
Actually, there's possibly a sadder moment, and it involves a character saying this:
“You were so brave and so strong. I have to do something now, Bik, and don’t you follow me.”
So what is your opinion on sad scenes? Do you enjoy a story with some truly heart-rending bleak moments? What are some scenes from various novels that have deeply affected you?
By the way, the paperback giveaway is still going on! Check out the previous blog entry for details.