First off, please don’t run away. I promise that this will be a serious post on the effectiveness of grief in stories. The other night I was reading a fanfic story that my friend had sent me about One Direction (she’s obsessed). She had promised me that I would be overwhelmed by the depth and emotion that this story contained. To say the least, I was skeptical. Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I read the story. Less than 24 hours later, I was sobbing in bed as I finished the story. Now a bit of backstory, as I mentioned before, my friend is obsessed with One Direction. I am not. In fact, I sort of despised them at first. As, ahem, a classically trained musician, I look down upon most pop music, and One Direction was never exempt from this judgement.
Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I decided to give it a try. As a former fanfic writer (a dark point in my life, I assure you) and a fanfic reader (let’s not talk about that particular guilty pleasure), I knew that fanfics are prone to grammatical mistakes galore and contrived plot lines. With that in mind I began the story. As I mentioned above, by the end of the story, I was sobbing. I wasn’t sobbing becauthe of the death of a character, I was crying because I could empathize with the grief that the survivors felt.
Empathy is one of those emotions that everyone can feel (I so hope that none of you are sociopaths) and as such, it is a particularly effective storytelling device. Because it is so subtle, the walls that many have erected around their hearts are shattered by the overwhelming sensation of empathy that then morphs into grief. Despite one’s best intentions, grief worms itself past that barrier and opens you up to so many other emotions. It may seem counter intuitive, but it all gets easier from there.